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THE LIBRARY 

OF 

THE UNIVERSITY 

OF CALIFORNIA 

LOS ANGELES 



9i^-<i 



SOLDIER AND DRAMATIST 








1 




HAKuiD til. Mi: 



S. Lanjifr, Gla 



SOLDIER AND 
DRAMATIST 

BEING THE LETTERS OF 

HAROLD CHAPIN 

AMERICAN CITIZEN WHO 
DIED FOR ENGLAND AT LOOS 
ON SEPTEMBER 26TH, 1915. 
WITH TWO PORTRAITS 



LONDON : JOHN LANE, THE BODLEY HEAD 
NEW YORK : JOHN LANE COMPANY. MCMXVII 



Second Edition 



WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED, LONDON AND LECCLESj ENGLAND 






" I go to prove my soul. 
I see my way as birds their trackless way, 
I shall arrive ! what time, what circuit first 
I ask not : but unless God send His hail 
Or blinding fire-balls, sleet, or stiffling snow, 
In some time— His good time— I shall arrive : 
He guides me and the bird. In His good time ! " 

Robert Browning 



1670527 



CONTENTS 



PAGE 



The Record of a Life, By Sidney Dark , , ix 

How Harold Chapin Died xx 

Harold Chapin, Dramatist. By William Archer xxv 

Letters from the Training Camp . . ■ 35 

Letters from France io7 

Appendix A. Harold Chapin's Plays . . . 285 
Appendix B. Programme of the "Harold 

Chapin Memorial Performance" . . . 286 



THE RECORD OF A LIFE 
By Sidney Dark 

HAROLD CHAPIN was born in Brooklyn, 
U.S.A., on February 15th, 1886. He was 
killed at the Battle of Loos, on September the 
26th, 1915. 

His family is of old New England stock, de- 
scended from Huguenot refugees, and there are 
family legends of an Indian princess who married 
one of his ancestors. With his characteristic love 
of the picturesque, Harold always insisted on the 
reality of his Indian ancestress. 

His mother was a Unitarian, and it was in this 
faith that he was reared. In the autumn of 1888, 
Mrs. Chapin brought her baby son to Europe. 
They stayed for a little while in Paris, and, 
before he was three years of age, they came to 
London. It was in England that Harold Chapin 
lived the rest of his life. 

His mother is an actress, and in August, 1893, 
when Harold was seven years old, she was engaged 



X WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

to play Volumnia in " Coriolanus " during the 
Shakespeare Festival at Stratford-on-Avon. The 
Festival was postponed that year from April to 
August owing to Sir Frank Benson's illness. 
Harold went to Stratford with his mother. Mr. 
Benson was attracted by the small boy and asked 
Mrs. Chapin to let him play young Marcus. His 
first appearance, therefore, on any stage was in 
the Memorial Theatre, Stratford-on-Avon, in this 
part. 

His first essay in playwriting was made when he 
was only a few months older. His main interest 
at that time was nigger minstrelsy and this first 
play called " False Colours " was designed for 
the Moore and Burgess Minstrels. 

Harold Chapin made various appearances on 
the stage during his childhood, but his mother 
would not allow his schooling to be interfered with, 
and his work on the stage was limited to special 
holiday weeks. He was sent, when he was nine, 
to the North London Collegiate School and after- 
wards to the Norwich Grammar School. He 
disliked boarding school intensely, and he after- 
wards always denounced the custom of sending 
boys away from home to be educated. He 
finished his education (1901 and 1902) at Uni- 
versity College School, two very happy years 
always remembered with satisfaction, and one 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST xi 

of the many plans he made for his own small 
son was that he should be sent to this same 
school. 

Harold Chapin, as a boy, was quick and in- 
telligent, but always far less interested in the 
work appointed for him than in his own de- 
sultory reading and his own many adventures. 
He loved wandering about the country, filled with 
an insatiable and detailed curiosity. He was a 
tiring companion when he was quite little, for he 
had to stop every other minute to examine a new 
stone, to prod down a hole to discover where it 
led, to pick an unfamiliar flower, to gaze at a 
spider or a toad. In London he would explore 
mean streets and little-known alleys, observing 
and remembering. One of his boyish charac- 
teristics was a deep and gentle love of animals. 
This remained with him to the end and is reflected 
in the humorous letters to his dog, Emma, 
written from the front, and included in this book. 

In the autumn of 1902, Harold Chapin went on 
the stage in earnest, playing Billy in a "fit up " 
tour of " Sherlock Holmes." A tour with " The 
Red Lamp " followed. In 1903, he spent some 
time with a real Crummies' Company in which he 
played many and various parts from Hastings in 
" Jane Shore " to the father in " Maria Martin " 
or " The Murder in the Red Barn.'' This relative 



xii WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

should really have been Maria's mother but, 
women running short, the sex was changed to 
suit the exigencies of the company. Chapin 
thorougUy enjoyed this rather uncomfortable 
experience. The queer people with their queer 
characteristics and queerer patois appealed to his 
keen sense of humour and to his delight in every 
living thing from a bumble bee to a bad actor, 
and this engagement undoubtedly gave him the 
idea of his first long play "The Marriage of 
Columbine." The tour was short and unpro- 
ductive and ended in a wire asking for money to 
get back to civilization. 

A pause in town followed while he studied 
singing. His voice was baritone, well modulated 
and full of expression, but he never made any 
professional use of it. Music, however, was always 
to him a means of rest and the Queen's Hall often 
helped him through weary rehearsals. He wrote 
a good deal of poetry in these beginning years, and 
in 1905 he tried his hand at the book of a comic 
opera which he called " Kings in Ireland." 

At Christmas, 1905, he was in the Drury Lane 
pantomime, understudying and playing the comic 
policeman in the Harlequinade, the bustle and fun 
of which delighted him immensely. He never 
lost his love for the more simple and ingenuous 
forms of theatrical entertainment and one of his 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST xiii 

many unfulfilled ambitions was to write a revue 
and play in it, himself. 

During 1906 and 1907 he acted in " The Prodigal 
Son " at Drury Lane, " A Pantomime Rehearsal " 
on tour, "The Bondman" at the Adelphi, and 
" Her Love Against the World," " The Midnight 
Wedding," and " The Christian " at the Lyceum. 
He became assistant stage manager when this last 
play was moved to the Shaftesbury. 

In 1908, he played Balthazar in " Romeo and 
Juliet " at the Lyceum, and later in the year he 
joined Mr. Frohman's management at the Duke 
of York's. Here he was first associated with Mr. 
Granville Barker. In 1909, he played in " What 
Every Woman Knows " and " Strife," and stage 
managed the special matinees of " Press Cuttings " 
at the Court. 

With all this hard work he never for a moment 
forgot his ambition to write plays. That was to be 
his real work. He always carried in his pocket a 
little notebook in which he would write down 
lines and situations as they occurred to him. He 
continued his voyages of discovery, often in the 
middle of the night and after a long day's work at 
the theatre. 

In 1 910 he was engaged for the Repertory 
Season at the Duke of York's, playing many 
parts, among them Callow in ■' Prunella." Early 



xlv WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

this year his first one-act play, "Augustus in Search 
of a Father," was produced at the Court by the 
Play Actors, the author himself appearing as 
Augustus. In March, his " Marriage of Colum- 
bine " was played by the same society. His 
mother has a charming recollection of this im- 
portant evening. 

" He was such an excited boy that night. He 
sat back in his box, concealed from the audience 
watching eagerly and anxiously, and when the 
genuine enthusiasm at the close of the perform- 
ance told him that his play was a success he put 
his head on my shoulder and whispered : ' Do 
they like it. Do you really think they like it ? ' " 

On June 4th, 1910, he married Calypso Valetta. 
He and his wife had met as members of the same 
company. The Frohman Repertory Season lasted 
until the end of July and then he and his wife 
went to Bemaval for their first real honeymoon. 
He came back to the Duke of York's to play in 
" A Bolt from the Blue," which had only a 
short run, and then, after a month or so of 
tourmg in a sketch, he joined the Glasgow 
Repertory Theatre as one of the producers. His 
wife went to Glasgow with him and played with 
the company. During 1911, his one-act plays 
■' Muddle Annie " and " The Autocrat of the 
Coffee Stall " were produced in Glasgow, and 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST xv 

" Augustus in Search of a Father " and " The 
Marriage of Columbine " were revived. He came 
back to London in the summer of 1911, stage 
managed " The Girl Who Couldn't Lie " at the 
Criterion and acted in a special performance of 
Strindberg's " The Father." In September he 
went back to Glasgow for a second season during 
which " The Dumb and the Blind " (first called 
" God and Mrs, Henderson ") was produced. In 
December, 191 1, his son was born, and when the 
child was less than a month old, Harold Chapin 
and his wife came back to town. Before leaving 
Glasgow he wrote to Mr. Granville Barker asking 
if he could give him an engagement. Mr. Barker 
replied that he was then producing a musical 
comedy and inquired if Chapin could sing. He 
promptly wired back " Yes, trained baritone 
voice." He did not, however, appear in the 
musical comedy, Mr. Barker engaging him as 
stage manager at the Kingsway, where " Fanny's 
First Play " was then being performed. 

The constant strain of work led at this time to 
a rather serious breakdown, but he recovered in 
time to attend the rehearsals of his brilliant 
comedy, ■" Art and Opportunity," which was 
produced in the autumn of 1912 at the Prince 
of Wales's Theatre by Miss Marie Tempest. 
This production made him known to a wider 



xvi WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

public and he was recognized by all the most 
considerable critics as one of the two most promis- 
ing of the younger men writing for the British 
theatre. While " Art and Opportunity " was 
running at the Prince of Wales's, he became stage 
director of the Savoy during Mr. Barker's series 
of Shakespearian revivals, an engagement which 
was to him an unqualified delight. About the 
same time his four-act play " Elaine," written 
while he was in Glasgow, was produced by Miss 
Horniman at the Gaiety Theatre, Manchester, and 
at Christmas his " Wonderful Grandmamma; or, 
The Wand of Youth " was played at the same 
theatre. 

In 1913 and the first half of 1914 his " Dumb 
and the Blind " was acted for several months at 
the Prince of Wales's first as part of a triple bill 
and then as a front piece, " It's the Poor that 
'Elps the Poor " and " Every Man for His Own " 
were produced, and " Dropping the Baby " was 
played as a first piece at the Playhouse. 

Early in 1913, he acted at the Vaudeville in 
Mr, Jerome K. Jerome's " Robina in Search of a 
Husband," and he understudied during Messrs. 
Mackinnel and Whelen's season at this theatre. 
He played David Quixano in Mr. Israel Zangwill's 
"The Melting Pot" when it was produced by 
the Play Actors. When the play was afterwards 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST xvii 

taken to the Comedy he was the stage manager 
and he played the leading part towards the con- 
clusion of the run. He afterwards produced and 
played in Mr. Zangwill's " Plaster Saints." By 
this time his great ability as a producer was 
widely recognized and he received may offers for 
this kind of work. 

War was declared on August the 4th 1914, and 
at once all Harold Chapin's interests and thoughts 
were changed. He could only think of the war 
and of England's share in it. He could not act. 
" It seemed so silly," he said. He could not write. 
He could only watch for war news and attend 
classes in first aid. Finally, on September 2nd, 
he enlisted in the R.A.M.C. From the moment 
he joined, as is evident from his early letters, he 
threw all his enthusiasm, his strength, and his 
power of concentration into the new task. The 
artist and the dreamer became the enthusiastic 
soldier, enduring the unaccustomed hardships with 
a cheery good nature which made him immensely 
popular with his comrades. One of his mother's 
old friends wrote her a letter in which she said 
how noble it was of her son " to fight for king and 
country." Harold laughed when he was shown 
the letter. "I'm fighting for no king," he said, 
" and the best of this king is that he knows we 
are not fighting for him." 

B 



xviii WAR LETTERS OF A DRiVMATIST 

Harold Chapin's character is vividly revealed 
in his letters — ^his acute power of observation, 
his humour, his courage, his wide democratic 
sympathies, and his intense affection. He died 
at the beginning of his life and when the man in 
him was still in the making. 

He was my friend, and when one's friend dies 
a hero's death the fact fills one with pride and 
humility. Until the last two years, it was not 
what we expected of our friends. They were 
kind and considerate and understanding, but we 
never suspected them of heroism. We had, 
indeed, lost faith in ourselves. We had ceased 
to believe that man was made in the image of 
God. Now we know better. 

Chapin's best and most characteristic work is, 
unquestionably, to be found in his one-act plays, 
in most of which he is concerned with the life of 
the very poor. He never gushes or sentimentalizes. 
He always writes with critical sympathy. His 
touch is sure, and his line is clear. A good short 
play is as rare as a good short story, and nothing 
better of their kind has been given to the English 
stage, in our time, than his " The Dumb and the 
Blind " and his " It's the Poor that 'Elps the 
Poor." It is certain that, if he had lived, his 
work must have grown in range and power, and 
his death is a grievous loss for a theatre largely 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST xix 

left to vulgar futilities. The men of acknow- 
ledged genius who do write for the theatre are 
inhuman. Their eyes are blinded by their lentil 
diet. Harold Chapin was at least a man. 

He was fastidious, self-reliant, sure of himself, 
and eager, above all things, to do the best work 
of which he was capable. He cared less than 
nothing for the extra loaves and fishes that come 
with success, and, as he told me in the last gossip 
we ever had, his most miserable days were during 
the run of " Art and Opportunity," when sub- 
stantial royalties were coming to him every week. 
He was a splendid friend, because of his gift of 
understanding. He was ascetic in all his tastes. 
He was indeed a Puritan, with infinite toleration 
and with the soul of the artist. 

Harold Chapin was killed on Sunday, Sep- 
tember 26th, at the battle of Loos. He was only 
twenty-nine on that Sunday afternoon, but he 
had lived worthily and he died gloriously. 



XX WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 



HOW HAROLD CHAPIN DIED. 

The following letter from Mr. Richard Capell, 
one of Harold Chapin's comrades, was the first 
intimation Mrs. Chapin received of her husband's 
death. It was, of course, written hurriedly and 
under trying conditions, hut it gives so touching and 
dramatic an account of Harold Chapin's last days, 
that it is felt that it must he included in this hook 
exactly as it was received. 

October 3rd, 1915. 

My dear Mrs. Chapin, 

I beg you to accept my heartfelt con- 
dolences. I would not so much as hint at the 
word consolation to you after this unutterably 
cruel blow, — even to us, his chance friends of less 
than a year, it seems too cruel to be realisable, — 
were it not that I can give you some account, at 
first hand, of the splendid work of your husband 
on those days, September 25th and 26th. It 
must surely be, eventually, a consolation to you 
to think that, he died no mean, casual death, but 
that he was shot down (on the afternoon of 
Sunday a week ago) when actually on an errand 
of help, and after giving himself up for hour after 
hour to heavy and perilous toil for the wounded. 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST xxi 

I have been at some pains to get for you some 
details of that fatal afternoon, but I cannot — 
the reason will be obvious — now tell you quite 
all there is. The essential is that on Sunday 
morning an appeal came to our station for stretcher- 
bearers to assist a battalion, seven of whose 
bearers were out of action. Your husband 
and two other men set out for the trenches in 
question, which were to the south-west of Loos. 
The journey, itself, had its perils. Over the 
distance of two miles or thereabouts, the Ger- 
mans, who were rallying after their defeat of the 
day before, could enfilade our ground. One day 
I will explain the position with precision. The 
three of them eventually reached the series of 
trenches at a moment when the Germans were 
counter-attacking, and were told by an officer 
that stretcher-work was impossible at such a 
moment. It was suicide to show one's head 
above the parapet. This was, of course, one of 
the old German trenches, and the enemy fire 
came both from front and right flank. Chapin 
consequently told the two others to wait for him 
while he reported to the medical officer who had 
appealed in the morning, his intention being to 
return to collect the wounded after dark, as we 
did during the week as a matter of routine. The 
two never saw him again. 



xxii WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

Our line that afternoon wavered for a moment, 
before the counter-attack. There was a short 
period of confusion, and some of our men were 
caught in the open by German rifle and machine- 
gun fire. You may possibly one day get an 
exact account from an actual eye-witness, but from 
what I can piece together, your husband went 
over the parapet to fetch in some wounded man. 
He was certainly shot in the foot. It appears 
that he persisted and was then killed outright by 
a shot through the head. 

Our work was so exacting at that moment, 
that hours passed before Chapin's absence was 
noticed at our station, and it was not till the 
following morning that we felt anxious. 

I pass over a series of extravagant adventures 
that befell me as I made my way, then, to your 
husband's destination of the day before, with 
the idea of getting first-hand information. I 
found myself on the scene when the English 
were making a further attack. It was im- 
possible, in daylight, to go into the open, but 
I found from a medical officer that a lance- 
corporal of the R.A.M.C. had, the night before, 
been seen dead over the parapet. The English 
attack, that afternoon, improved the position. 
The next morning, we had a run out there 
your husband had been buried in the night near 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST xxiii 

where he fell. I went down on Wednesday to 
the trenches, saw the officer who had been in 
charge of the burial party, and eventually got 
the papers, watch, etc., which were found on 
his body. These you will have received by 
now, I suppose. There can be no harm in 
telling you that he lies with six other London 
Territorials, within a few hundred yards of Loos 
cemetery. 

If I have the pleasure of seeing you again, 
when this ghastly business is over, I will tell 
you something of Chapin's fine work on the 
Saturday, collecting wounded on the wire 
before the first captured German trench. For 
many hours I was out there with him ; — heart- 
breaking conditions, twenty appeals for help 
where one could only heed one ; rain for hour 
after hour, and no little annoyance from cross- 
fire. On one journey, three of us (your husband 
was one) came in for a tempest of fire. Two 
of us lay low with the laden stretcher on the 
grass, while your husband volunteered to go 
ahead into the village, using a communication 
trench to bring back the " wheels," by which 
we get stretchers along at a good pace over 
roads. Eventually the tempest ended, and the 
whole day ended without casualties for us. We 
went to bed at midnight for two hours. Before 



xxiv WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

daybreak I joined a party that was going to 
Loos, and so began the fatal Sunday. 

If, dear Mrs. Chapin, you succeed in getting 
more detailed information of your husband's 
death it will be from some one or another in 
the 17th Battalion London Regiment. 

I feel that I am intruding on your grief. Excuse 
me, and believe me, with profound sympathy. 
Yours very sincerely, 

Richard Capell. 



HAROLD CHAPIN, DRAMATIST 

By William Archer 

The following appreciation written after the 
Chapin Memorial Performance was published in 
the "New York Nation" of January 20th, 1916. 
It is reproduced here by the gracious permission 
of the Editor and of Mr. Archer. 

" The name of Harold Chapin is one of which 
America may well be proud ; for, though English 
bred, he was born in America, of American 
parents. The occasion to which I refer was a 
presentation of four of his one-act plays, given in 
honour of his memory. For he is dead : he fell 
in battle before Loos ; and with the single ex- 
ception of Rupert Brooke, no English-speaking 
man of more unquestionable genius has been lost 
to the world in this world-frenzy. Chapin was 
more fortunate than Brooke, for he died in active 
and devoted service. 

Can you wonder at the emotion with which I, 
who had watched Chapin and believed in him 



xxvi WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

from the outset of his career, saw the four little 
plays which remain perhaps the best witness to 
the promise so sadly unfulfilled ? 

The outset of his career as a dramatist, I ought 
to have said. His career as an actor began when 
he was a child ; for he came of a theatrical stock. 
As an actor, however, he made no great mark. 
Like Granville Barker, he was much more 
interested in producing plays — and in writing 
them. A queer semi-fantastic comedy, " The 
Marriage of Columbine," brought him into notice 
some five years ago. A good play it was not, yet 
it was full of unmistakable talent and originality. 
Several of its lines were of that subtle quality 
which takes an appreciable time to get home to 
the apprehension of the audience, so that one can 
actually watch their effect kindling from row to 
row, as it were, through the house. But it was 
not like the play in " Le Monde ou Ton s'ennuie " 
in which " il-y-avait un beau vers." It had 
vitality throughout, and was never commonplace, 
either in its merits or its defects. A year or two 
later Chapin got his one chance of a regular pro- 
duction at a West End theatre. " Art and 
Opportunity," a three-act play written for Miss 
Marie Tempest, did not show him at his best. It 
was brimful of cleverness ; but in adapting the 
heroine's character to Miss Tempest's vivacious, 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST xxvii 

showy talent, Chapin sacrificed some of his 
sincerity. He created for her a new type of 
adventuress who, from a sort of sporting instinct, 
makes a system of playing with her cards upon the 
table. Her half-real, half-affected candour is so 
successful that a hostile critic says of her : " Why, 
Henry, she's as transparent as a jellyfish ; " to 
which Henry replies : " Do you know why a 
jelly-fish is transparent ? So as not to be seen 
too clearly." Not only wit, but real insight, 
went to the making of these lines. 

His one-act plays, however, show his talent at 
its best, and were rightly chosen for the memorial 
performance. The first, entitled " It's the Poor 
that 'Elps the Poor," is a low-life sketch of ex- 
traordinary poignanc3^ Ted Herberts has been 
sent to prison for assaulting the police. During 
his absence his child has died, and the curtain 
rises upon the funeral party of neighbours, re- 
turned from the cemetery. In clumsy and 
grotesque ways, they show their sympathy with 
the bereaved mother ; but it is evident that in 
reality the funeral is an occasion of pleasurable 
excitement to them. Then the husband, released 
from prison before his time, bursts in upon the 
party. He has read the report of the inquest 
and has seen that the child practically died of 
starvation. To the consternation of the mourners, 



xxviii WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

who are revelling in the consciousness of their own 
goodness of heart, he turns upon them and asks 
what the sympathy is worth which can " wake " 
a dead child, but cannot make the trifling sacrifices 
that would have kept it alive. They allege various 
excuses ; it is evident that they have been 
thoughtless rather than actually callous ; and at 
last the father's bitterness of spirit is swamped in 
a burst of natural human grief. Though there is 
something of the French comedie rosse in the play, 
its humour is not in the least cruel. It leaves 
no bad taste behind it, but simply a poignant 
sense of the hard conditions of life for those on 
the margin of subsistence, and of the prevailing 
shiftlessness of the very poor. 

Simpler and more delicate is the second little 
play, " The Dumb and the Blind." The avoca- 
tions of Joe Henderson, bargeman, have been such 
as to permit of his spending only two nights a week 
in his domestic circle. But now he returns, 
accompanied by his pal. Bill, to announce to his 
wife, Liz, that he has been promoted to a post 
that will give him an additional ten shillings a 
week and enable him to come home every night. 
In an opening scene between Liz and her sharp 
daughter, Emmy, we have gained the impression 
that Mr. Henderson's household is more agree- 
able without his bodily presence ; and this 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST xxix 

impression is confirmed when we find him treating 
his wife, not with actual brutality, but with 
captious and blustering harshness. At last he 
sends her out for the indispensable jug of beer, 
and sits gossiping with his crony. Impatient of 
her delay, he goes to the door and looks out, when 
it is evident that he sees something — we know 
not what — that somehow impresses him. He 
calls " Liz ! " and she comes in rather guiltily, 
with the jug still empty. He asks Bill to fetch 
the beer, and meanwhile questions his wife. 
" Wot was you a-doin' of ? " " Puttin' on me 
'at." " No, you wasn't. ... I see you kneelin' 
wiv your head on the bed." With great reluctance 
she confesses that she was saying her prayers. 
" You don't 'ave to say yer prayers before 
fetching a drop of beer, do you ? " No ; but it 
just came over her, like, that she wanted to. 
Why ? Because she felt grateful like — she wanted 
to sort o' thank Gawd. The domestic tyrant can 
scarcely believe his ears. He questions her 
closely to make sure that this is not merely a 
mechanical habit of hers, and gradually yields 
to the strange conviction that she is positively 
glad to have him at home for good. The realiza- 
tion induces in him a mood of such solemnity 
that when Bill returns with the beer Joe declines 
his share of it — a phenomenon which leaves Bill, 



XXX WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

in his turn dumfounded. This rough summary 
does great injustice to a veritable masterpiece in 
its way — a thing Dickens would have delighted 
in. There is not a single false note in the little 
play : it is as restrained as it is touching. We 
feel that the dumb has spoken and the blind has 
seen ; and we hope, without too much confidence, 
that a new era is dawning on the Henderson 
household. 

The third play, " The Philosopher of Butter- 
biggens," was acted for the first time on any stage. 
It is in the Barrie vein, and yet is no mere echo 
of Barrie. Its delightful humour would lose too 
much in narration, so I shall not attempt it, but 
will only say that it is as good in its lighter way as 
" The Dumb and the Blind," and that the audience 
was charmed with it. A more commonplace 
comedietta, " Innocent and Annabel," brought 
the programme to a close. It was very amusing, 
but not markedly individual. 

The general impression left by the performance 
was deep and memorable. It was no mere 
respectful solemnity : the audience vividly en- 
joyed every word of it. Something was due to 
the excellent acting ; for many of our best artists 
had come forward to do honour to their lost 
comrade. But what one realizes most keenly in 
retrospect is the abounding vitality of Chapin's 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST xxxi 

talent. There was not a moment when one did 
not feel one's self in touch with a living spirit, 
bounteously endowed with thought, observation, 
humour, craftsmanship. It filled one with a 
sort of dumb rage to think that such rare promise 
had been extinguished, on the threshold of ful- 
filment, by the brute hazard of the battlefield. 
It was a youth in his twenties who had done all 
this fine work — what might we not have expected 
from the ripened man ? In Professor Gilder- 
sleeve's recently reprinted " Creed of the Old 
South " I find a line of Schiller exactly apt to 
the occasion : 

Ja, der Krieg verschlingt die Besten ; 

though one would be sorry to continue the quota- 
tion, and say : 

Denn Patroklus liegt begraben, 
Und Tliersites kommt zuriick. 

This would be a gross injustice to thousands of 
men who are none the less brave for being fortunate. 
But, at any rate, Schiller gives no countenance to 
the notion that war subserves the survival of the 
fittest. If one could believe that the champions 
of that criminal fallacy would be exterminated, 
there would be some consolation even for a loss 
like that of Harold Chapin. But most of them, 
alas ! keep snugly aloof from the firing-line. 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 




Cherry &■ Co., St. Albans 



LAXCE-CORPORAI. CHAl'IN, R.A..M.C. 



LETTERS FROM THE TRAINING 
CAMP 

To his Wife. 

St. Albans, Nov. 12th. 

The parcel arrived quite safe, dearest girl. It 
is really impossible to write a letter — we are hard 
at it all day and sleeping eight in a room, not a 
bit of furniture. I have to be up at 5 to-morrow 
morning to light fire in Field Kitchen — out doors 
— hope it isn't raining. 

Dubbin excellent, ditto puttees. Thanks for 
tobacco, don't let any more be sent till I ask for 
it this will last a bit. 

Thank Heaven for the dressing gown. I have 
been sleeping in everything I've got and shiver- 
ing and to-day my great coat is wet so I cannot 
sleep in it, but the dressing gown will be more 
than a substitute. 

Day's Hat Factory, 
Lattimore Road, 

St. Albans. 
Nov, i6th, 1914. 

It is frantically difficult to write. I have 
scarcely time to eat and none to keep clean. 

35 c 2 



36 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

The cookhouse work is terribly heavy 4 men 
under a Sergeant (who also looks after the Officers 
and cannot give us much of his time) have to 
cook for 240 and that under every difficulty you 
can imagine. 

We have only eleven " dixies " (large iron 
kettles) every one of which is necessary for each 
meal and no soda or other means of cleansing 
them is issued to us. Our full equipment besides 
the dixies is a set of butcher's tools, a couple 
of ovens (requiring independent fires over which 
ordinary kettles can be boiled), a pick-axe, a 
kettle and an iron girder, found here and in- 
valuable. 

Our fuel consists of loppings and logs brought 
in daily — one cart load per day — which we have 
to saw into lengths with a borrowed hand-saw 
and chop up with the butcher's chopper. Of 
course our meat is supplied in half oxen and whole 
sheep and sides of bacon which we have to reduce 
to joints and stewing pieces. 

Our expert cook (under the Sergeant) is an 
eccentric lean individual, very foul-mouthed and 
good natured. He looks very seedy but is in 
fact as strong as a horse. He seems to live on 
one meal a day consisting chiefly of biscuits and 
pastry from the Y.M.C.A., partaken of at about 
11.30 when the dinners are all on. For the rest 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 37 

of the day, he supports life on tea strong enough 
to blow up a battleship and sweet enough to 
satisfy a performing bear. 
Must stop. More to-morrow love 



Day's Hat Factory, 

St. Albans. 
Nov. 19th, 1914. 

"I'm beginning to find out when my easy 
seconds come along, so shall try to write a coherent 
letter to-day and to-morrow and post it to-morrow 
night. At first it looked as if from 5 a.m. till 
10.15 p.m. not a moment could be spared from 
cleaning for duty, duty, eating, and sleeping but 
as one steadies down odd moments can be found. 
For instance while the dixies boil in the afternoon. 

The toughest part of this job is the getting up, 
morning after morning, at five o'clock and racing 
off to the cook's yard and cursing damp wood 
into a fire frequently under a steady before- 
daybreak drizzle. We certainly see some won- 
derful sunrise effects we cooks, and the effect 
of a set of chimes here that plays something 
quaint (I can't quite make out what) every 
morning at six is very beautiful, but it's weary 
work, and the fear that the trench may refuse 
to light or cave in, thereby depriving two hundred 
hungry men of their breakfasts on their return 



38 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

from their morning constitutional (a two mile 
march before breakfast), is haunting. 

I am writing with people talking all round me 
so — on a broken box — my seat being the hub of 
a wheel — rest of wheel and cart smashed up 
somewhere. 

Willson stood a dozen of us a dinner yesterday 
evening : first meal with a tablecloth since I 
came down here. 

I look like being permanently attached to the 
cookhouse and I shan't mind if I am, the work 
is feverishly hard for nearly eight hours a day 
and fairly hard for another five, but it is interest- 
ing and unquestionably useful and the cook and 
his mates are exempt from " Guard " and several 
other minor worries. 

We have to do all our cooking in the factory 
yard used by the transport men for their carts 
and waggons. There are two lean-to shelters in 
it — just roofs with supports under which we try 
to work if it rains extra hard, but they are a poor 
shelter and the trench fire is of course in the 
open. 

This is absolutely Active Service here. *' War 

Station " on the orders, and save that we aren't 

under fire, or likely to be, in every respect similar 

to Active work at the Front. 

Send me no more tobacco unless I ask for it. 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 39 

Some of these boys have had half hundred weights 
sent them and can't get through them. 

Days' Hat Factory, 

St. Albans, 
r Nov. 23rd. 

Dearest, 

We are still here — about 500 of us out of 
18,000, as far as I can gather, only 12 R.A.M.C. 
6th F.A. out of 800 any way. Whether we are to 
follow the others later or whether they will all be 
marching back in a few hours remains to be seen. 
I fancy the latter. Any way w^e are preparing a 
late meal for them (our own Field Ambulance 
not the whole division of course). 

I am freezing (writing out of doors of course) 
will move over to the stove — (moved) — but it's 
very smoky now I'm here. It's windy to-day 
and the smoke is deadly. 

It was a great hour this morning getting break- 
fast with the waggons being loaded all over the 
yard. They've never chosen quite that hour 
before. I had to push a horse out of the way 
every time I wanted a rasher of bacon to fry. 

It was drizzling and very dark too, but it has 
since turned out a very fair sort of day. On the 
whole we really can't complain of the weather 
for second half of November. I wish Xmas 
was past, though, and the days were lengthening. 



40 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

People have laughed at the number of references 
to the weather in " Eye Witness's " account of 
progress at the Front but the weather is a very 
important matter to us I can tell you and we watch 
every change in it with the greatest concern. 



Pause from 4 p.m. Sunday till Noon Monday. 

The troops came back suddenly and we were 
plunged in the throes of dishing out stew and soup 
and spuds and this letter got mislaid in the process. 
Nobody knows what the game was yesterday. 
The 6th Field only got about 5 miles at the tail 
of the whole division then waited a couple of 
hours and returned. They had been in full 
travelling rig with blankets, waterproof sheeting, 
2 days' rations etc. but here we all are again 
though the " ready to leave at an hour's notice " 
has not been rescinded. 

Oh lummy it is cold. The warm half of the 
yard is full of thick smoke. You saw it at it's 
quietest on a Saturday afternoon after dinner. 
I wish you could see it on an average morning 
before 3 p.m. 

Heaps of love to you both and everybody. 
Explain to my boy that I must be away from him 
for a while. Willson and I went to the Abbey 
last night and there was a dear little choir boy 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 41 

just like Vally with such a sweet childish little 
voice. I nearly howled. 
God bless you sweetheart — keep smiling. Love. 

St. Albans, Nov. 29th, 1914. 

We are getting if possible busier and busier. 
A Brigade Order arriving last night fairly late 
involved getting breakfast for all troops at 7.30 
instead of 7.45 and 8 (two batches) which meant 
up before 5 and out in the rain (it was pouring) 
by 5.30 all the wood sopping : the fire trench half 
full of water and the carts and w^aggons being 
loaded and got out all over the shop. 

We are being sorted into jobs. I fancy I shall 
stay on cooking. This is good because it is as 
useful a job as is going and one that demands 
conscientious hard work still it does not involve 
going into the actual firing line — a thing I have no 
ambition to do. Stray shell fire and epidemics 
are all I want to face thank you, let those who 
like the firing line have all the bullets they 
want. 

Talking of epidemics we are suffering from an 
epidemic of minor misfortunes. Willson the 
healthy has got a sort of boil on his leg which I 
dress for him nightly. Lion and Fisher have got 
bad feet — very bad feet. Roff (you don't know 
him but he is of the decumvirate) started flu 



42 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

but thought better of it — Galton the Scot has 
started acute pains in his inside — on the site of 
an old operation. Many others have bad feet or 
festering fingers and I have got an inflamed eye 
— a sort of pimple under the lid which exudes 
matter occasionally — also I have sliced my thumb 
beside the nail. Eye and thumb both mend- 
ing though. Willson dresses the latter nightly : 
curious how people pal up under these conditions 
I don't believe he and I have been fifty yards 
apart since we came down here except on last 
Saturday when you came down. 

The Bag is a thing of such beauty that it was 
very wise of you to mark it for me. So much 
" lifting " goes on. 

I think I'll try to phone you to-night — it's 
so long since I got a word with you and my 
blessing. 

Two daj'S later. Sunday. 

I resume. I was so glad to catch you on the 
'phone night before last. I had had an awful 
fatiguing, and depressing day and was reduced 
to an acute state of blues which your voice 
effectively dispelled. Yesterday again was a 
soaker. We were hard at it all day cooking 
not only for ourselves (214) but a batch of A.S.C. 
and St. John's Ambulance men who are quartered 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 43 

upon us. I was wet to the skin by 8 a.m. and 
remained so till after tea was served and the 
" dixies " returned at about six o'clock. I don't 
feel much the worse for it to-day though. 

Love — they are waiting for me to strain 84 
pints of tea. 

To his little Son* 

Same date. 

Vally darling do send your Doody a letter. I 
haven't a moment or I would write you long ones. 
I get up in the morning in a hurry and start 
cooking and by the time I have finished it is 
bedtime again. 

You are to come and see me again next Sunday 
unless I come down to see you in the nice new 
house. 

I hope you are well and good and all that sort 
of thing and I do hope my sweetheart you think 
a lot about your old Doody who loves you most 
awfully even if he has to go away from you when 
he doesn't want to. 

Be very good to Dear Mummy and tell her I 
love her, and give her a big hug for me and please 
please write to me and send me a big lock of your 
hair — not a short one but one right off near your 
head, see ? 

Your Doody. 



44 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

To his Wife. 

St. Albans, Dec. 6th, 1914. 

I am most awfully sorry. It's a shame you 
should be worried. I should have answered your 
poor dear letter sooner. I tried to but I didn't 
know what to say. We have had two pouring 
wet days and I have been wet to the skin day 
and night — ^but still quite healthy — and awfully 
worried about you. As a matter of fact I suppose 
I should never have joined but stayed at home and 
worked but it's too late now, I've done it — I 
ought to have thought more of what it would 
mean to you to be left as I have left you. 

God bless you my dear one. 



To his Wife. 

St. Albans, Dec. 6th, 1914. 

Dearest, 

Please thank Lai very much for the paper. 
It is more a present to the corps than to me : we 
are the most perfect Communists imaginable — 
we call it " borrowing " of course — in all minor 
matters such as paper, matches, etc. Two- 
thirds of it has gone already and that won't last 
long — don't bother to send me any more, though. 
We can get all we want of the Y.M.C.A. paper 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 45 

at any time and though of course / like using 
good paper I don't see the idea of supplying the 
whole army. 

I very much regret to say that we shall probably 
not get away this side of Christmas. It's rotten 
because Xmas at the front would be an endurable 
necessity but Xmas here only a few miles from 
Home would be deadly. Unless things change 
very much we should not be able to get leave 
either, that is not more than 10 per cent, of us 
as we are supposed to be in a state of " hours' 
notice " preparedness to depart for anywhere. 
As I told you over the 'phone French's despatch 
supplies the explanation of our activities for the 
past month. He appears to have not feared, but 
at any rate realized the possibility that the 
Germans might break across the Yser in which 
case the 2nd London T. Division and all other 
available reinforcements would have been bustled 
across to defend Calais, or Calais being taken we 
should have been hustled to the South and East 
coasts to defend England. The fact that no 
extra reinforcements were sent across shows how 
certainly the enemy was thrown back and how 
surely we are going to beat him in our own time. 
The favourite principle of Joffre never to use his 
reserves until driven to do so by an undeniable 
emergency is a very wise one. 



46 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

We are having filthy weather, raining and very 
windy. I am writing in the shelter of a derelict 
Am. cart wearing the jersey you sent me, a new 
cardigan just issued by the Authorities, and 
Mater's Cardigan. 

St. Albans, Dec. 8th, 1914. 

My Sweetheart, 

Thanks most awfully for your very sweet 
letter. I never thought you were reproaching 
me for joining — what I was not so sure of was 
whether I ought to reproach myself. 

You talk of Fate not helping — I wish you could 
see some of the poor devils down here, we are 
really among the lucky ones. 

I have just had a new pair of boots issued to me 
by an affectionate Quartermaster because my 
old ones burst. New ones are I hope going to 
last better. You remember what mighty looking 
things the old ones were — they are splitting all 
across the sole and the seams are gaping. I 
have also had a share of a gift of woollen goods — 
two pairs sox, two cholera belts, and a stocking 
cap also they have issued me a new cardigan so 
they are doing their best for us. 

When I think of Germans landing in England 
I wish I were not in a non-combatant corps — 
my taste runs in the direction of Maxim Guns 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 47 

then— but then only. The rest of the time I am 
quite content to " let others shoot." 

For one month now I have been up every morn- 
ing before 5.30 and out of the house before 6. I 
have seen the Sun rise over the red roofs 

Must finish. 

Don't send me any damned press notices I 
don't want 'em. Love to Joan and a hug to my 
precious — so glad he is having Cod Liver He 
Emulsion. 

St. Albans, Dec. loth, 1914- 

Hope to get a pass. If I do shall be home about 
3.30 or 4. May be disappointed at the absolute 
last moment — the passes are not issued till 2 p.m. 
Saturday and until then there is the possibility 
of their being rescinded. So be prepared for dis- 
appointment. 

Don't I beg of you have beef, mutton, or bacon 
for any meal and if we are going to Talbot Road 
communicate this edict to your Mother. 

So glad you like the picture — so do I. 

God bless you all and love to ye. 

St. Albans, Dec. i6tb, 1914. 

Dearest, 

Thanks very much for the rock cakes, they 
were a great success. 



48 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

Thanks also for the washed things. 

All's well with me — one day very like another 
you know except for deviations from the ideal 
in weather. We have had two beautiful days 
yesterday and to-day, the Sun rising through 
clouds and pouring rain but getting the better 
of them about eight or nine o'clock. 

I have made friends with Day's engineer who 
now allows me to keep my spare clothes (overcoat 
woollens and overalls) in his engine room over 
night. I thus come down at 5.30 or 5.45 get 
pretty wet by breakfast, retire to the Engine 
Room after Breakfast and emerge in dry overcoat 
jersey and overalls leaving my home-going over- 
coat and jersey to be dried by evening. The 
effect on my rheumatism — which had become 
rather bad, is most beneficial. 

Love to my boy and his Mummy. 



To his Son. 

St. Albans, Dec. 21st, 1914. 

My Darling, 

This is your birthday ! The day I'm writing 
on I mean, of course you won't get the letter till 
to-morrow so what you will have to say is 
" yesterday was my Birthday and Doody wrote 
on the evening of my Birthday." 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 49 

I'm not sending you any present for your Birth- 
day because I can't afford to send two presents 
in one week. I am sending you a present for 
Xmas instead. 

I am coming home to see you again soon and 
we'll have an awfully good time together. We 
might go to the Zoo together if I can get Sunday 
tickets. 

Good night my little boy — I'm very tired and 
I've got to shave and have a good wash before 
I go to bed on the floor next to your friend Ex 
Corkoral Willson on one side of me and with 
Galton and Fisher (you have met Fisher but not 
Galton — he is a Scotchman and likes whiskey 
hot before going to sleep) — with Galton and 
Fisher kicking me on the other side. 

God bless you my dearest little man. Please 
please be very good to dear Mummy and your 
newest Nanny and please please don't ever spit. 
I should hate to hear that you had been spitting 
when I come back. 

Your Dgody. 

To his Mother-in-Law. 

St. Albans, Dec. 22nd. 
Thanks very much for the chairs ; they really 
are a most sensible idea — there are so few things 
which we can enjoy — something to sit on in the 

D 



50 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

evening other than the floor or a sugar box is a 
treat. 

I hear that straw mattresses are to be issued to 
us soon, personally I am quite used to sleeping 
on the boards and except that I roll out of my 
blankets occasionally and have to wake up and 
re-roll myself I sleep quite well now. 

Everything points to our remaining here several 
weeks longer. Our C. Section was brought back 
from the East Coast last night, less i6 men left 
behind in Hospital, so we — the Sixth Field Am- 
bulance — are all in one place again. C. Section 
have left their cook behind in hospital. Willson 
and I made the tea and warmed them up stew 
and looked after them for two weary hours after 
our usual time to get away. Our usual day is a 
twelve hour one, so we were a little too tired. 
Last night or rather this morning we slept till five 
minutes to six instead of our usual five o'clock. 
Consequence : breakfast late for 250 men — and 
one soldier kept waiting for his breakfast is bad 
enough. 

Have you ever tasted a " cobbler's goose ? " 
I'll cook you one when I come back. 

Love to you. 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 51 

To his Wife. 

St. Albans, Dec. 24th, 1914. 

Thanks for your two letters of last night and 
this morning. I do hope you will have a happy 
Christmas. I am sending my blessed a cheap 
present but you nothing but my love. 

We are all over work — our balance of C. arrived 
on Tuesday and added their appetites to our 
burden. Christmas too means unlimited labour 
for the Cooks. 

Sweetheart — if you want to send me the best 
Christmas imaginable it would be a promise of 
three long letters a week with news at length. 
You don't know what an intense pleasure it is 
to hear all about you and my blossom and all that 
you do. From Sunday till Wednesday night I 
had not one letter and I can't tell you how de- 
pressed I got — of course I know posts were slow 
and you must have written quite soon after getting 
home from seeing me in your estimate of things. 
I'm not so silly as to blame you for not realizing 
the almost unrealizable pleasure that we under 
these conditions take in news from home. 

God bless and keep you my sweet. 



52 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

St. Albans, Dec. 26th, 1914. 

Dearest, 

We have had a terrific Xmas . . . tremen- 
dous work and plenty of fun. Went to Midnight 
Service on Xmas Eve (special leave being granted 
from II P.M. to 2 A.M. to those wanting to go, 
and of course I was after anything going). I 
know you will forgive me for not writing more 
often. We have really been up to our necks in 
work — and an allarum warned us as likely to 
occur on Boxing Day ... we were all packed 
up and ready — and indeed one battalion was 
entrained and another paraded for entrainment 
before the " warning " was withdrawn to us of 
the 6th Field Ambulance. Perhaps you won't 
understand this : it means that the fighting 
section of the brigade — the battalions — (which 
of course move off ahead of us) were not only 
warned but ordered — in other words we were all 
ordered but our order was countermanded before 
taking effect. Hard luck on the Battalions wasn't 
it ? The 2ist had to march 12 J miles and back 
for nothing, having been roused at 4 in the morn- 
ing to begin with. That is the advantage of 
belonging to a unit that travels by " train no. 57 " 
as we do, instead of one of the first units to 
go out. 

I'm going to turn in. God bless you and my 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 53 

baby — do write soon and at length. I know posts 
are responsible for it but I haven't had a letter 
since the one containing the photos — for which 
many thanks — now four days ago and I am longing 
for one. 
Bless you ! Bless you 1 

St. Albans, Dec. 29th, 1914. 

You shouldn't have bought me a Kodak dear. 
You are quite right in thinking I wanted one, 
but I am really much more anxious that you 
should have if not enough then at least all that 
comes in. 

It's very nice about " When the Lights are Low " 
' — I only hope something comes of it — or of 
" Dumb and the Blind " or "Art and Op. " or 
something. 

I am not complaining about letters dear one — 
I am only reminding you how much I value yours. 

We (some eight of us) have been turned out of 
our Billet and put into a garret about half a mile 
further from the Headquarters. We (Willson 
and I) were fetched to move our things at 3.30 
to-day and in less than 20 minutes had everything 
packed and in a cart bound for the new Billet. 
Twenty more minutes and we were on our way 
back to the Kitchen Yard to make the tea down. 
We have a great evening ahead of us separating 



54 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

our kits which naturally were crowded into each 
other's bags most promiscuous-like. The removal 
of Lion's million quilts was a great joy to all 
concerned and Willet's leaps to and fro as he 
rescued his beloved belt from muddy boots and 
other bad company were almost painful in their 
frequency. 

We had a heavy snow storm in the night and 
found the trench full of snow this morning. 
Breakfast was late, but not very. Love. 

To his Mother-in-Law. 

St. Albans, Dec. 30th. 

Thanks very much for the Blankets — the result 
of their distribution around the room last night 
was that we overslept ourselves and Wilson and 
I woke at 5.45 instead of 5 as usual. Breakfast 
was in consequence late and the Orderly Officer 
for the day — an infant of about 19 fresh from the 
O.T.C. — whose duty it is to see that everything 
in the nature of meals is as it should be — tried 
to make himself objectionable and was easily 
suppressed by his underlings — most of whom are 
old enough and wise enough to be his Father. 

I am putting in for leave either this week end 
or next but with the best intention in the world 
they can't grant us passes freely as long as we 
constitute, as we do now, the first line of defence. 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 55 

When I say " we " I mean the Third Army of 
which the Second London Division (Territorial) 
is a part. The 2nd London Division consists of 
the 4th, 5th, and 6th Brigades. We the 6th Field 
Ambulance are attached to the 6th Brigade. 

We have been shifted from the room you saw 
to the attics of an empty house some ten minutes 
further from Head Quarters. It is a gloomy 
hole — lit by one oil lamp, very damp and draughty. 
The wall by my head is wet to the touch, and 
the ceiling below our floor shows large damp spots. 
The fireplace is a little old-fashioned abomination 
which smokes when it is fine and spits steam when 
it rains. Of course we have waterproof sheets to 
sleep on and Linden's blankets being added to 
our store we now have 3 apiece instead of the 2 
issued by the Quartermaster. I am remarkably 
well and gaining in weight daily, only complaint 
an inclination to rheumaticy pains in my feet and 
shins, and stiff knees when I start out in the 
morning. 

God bless you all. 

P.S. You don't pray for the War to cease alone. 
There are heaps of married men here — or engaged 
ones who, like me, would greet the declaration 
of Peace to-morrow morning as — well words don't 
express it. But we're not anxious for anything 
but a definite Peace with us on top. 



56 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

St. Albans, Jan. ist, 1915- 

We leave here next Thursday for Hatfield under 
present arrangements. I am not sorry as any 
change from present Cook-house must be an 
improvement unless they expect us to cook at 
the bottom of the sea or on the edge of a glacier. 
All our C. Section (my section) are back from 
Braintree now and very nice fellows most of them 
are and extremely friendly and well disposed. 

I have put in for a week end pass as soon as 
possible. I am not entitled to one tUl Sunday 
after next but there's no harm in asking in good 
time. If I do by some fluke get one this week 
end I shall arrive same time as before but don't 
expect me. I shall have no means of letting you 
know. Passes are issued at the stroke of 2 and 
date from 2. Until issued it is no use counting 
upon them. 

Weather abominable. Sleet and snow changing 
at Sunrise to rain, Xmas day and yesterday 
were fine the greater part of the day. All other 
days filthy. 

Love to all, my little boy and his Mummy. 

St. Albans, Jan. 4th, 1915. 

I am in the Wars. WUlson is in Hospital with 
a sore throat and a temperature and our A.S.C. 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 57 

fifth hand in the Cookhouse has been demanded 
for various parades these last two days, conse- 
quently my usual heavy share of work in the 
Cook's shop has increased by 2 fifths — indeed 
by far more as those left with me are not such 
good workers as Willson and Pongo 3. (We call 
all the A.S.C. assistants in the cook's yard Pongo 
and give them numbers to distinguish between 
them. The reason is this. Any new helper in the 
cookhouse used to be automatically addressed by 
Jack as " Georgie " until such a time as his name 
revealed itself but the first A.S.C. helper happened 
to be really named George — or Georgie — so 
Willson and I decided to call " Pongo " all future 
A.S.C. men George being too likely to come out 
right. I hope you understand ? You play 
Patience. 

I have just come back from taking Willson up 
his holdall etc. He looks very nice in a little 
white bed, attired in a spotless white nighty over 
which he wears a red flannel bed jacket — as do 
all the other patients. The Hospital is awfully 
jolly and comfy. He is in an eight bed ward with 
chrysanthemums and lilies in vases all over the 
place against a plain green backing. It is a large 
private house converted for the occasion I believe. 

Love to my blesseds (plural). 



58 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

St. Albans, Jan. 8th, 1915. 

Sweetheart, Willson is back in the Cookhouse. 
He has had a perfectly gorgeous three days in 
Hospital and I am most envious. 

The C. Section Commander Major Bird is a 
great sport and we are taking to him very 
kindly. He is an old Naval Surgeon which is some 

recommendation isn't it ? , though still a 

pest (I use the word carefully — he is a pest, like an 
extra Summer-full of wasps) is an efficient hustler 
and things have moved some since his return. 

We have not departed for Hatfield. Some- 
thing is afoot — I dunno what : possibly a sudden 
departure for Egypt or France or Germany or 
possibly an invasion of our own shores — or a review 
by the general officers commanding the Division. 

Love to you all. Please send the camera by post. 

St. Albans, Jan. nth, 1915. 

Dearest, 

Sorry I never posted you a word yesterday. 
I had a most appalling hump and on re-reading 
my letter I found it breathed such an air of de- 
jection that I tore it up. I had had a rotten 
day — not tiring, just depressing. Two of the 
Cookhouse staff away on passes reduced us to 
four, one of those off for the afternoon and another 
(Corporal Shaw, ex-messenger-clerk to Jesse 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 59 

Smith's) called off at 20 minutes notice to a fresh 
job (water duty) nine miles away left us after the 
dixies were cleaned a very small band of fire- 
watchers in the rain. Only Willson and myself. 
Willson went below (to the Y.M.C.A.) to write 
letters just leaving me in the falling rain and the 
fading light from 3.30 to 4.30 alone. I chopped 
a little wood, made myself a cup of cocoa in a 
dirty mug, made the fires up again, chopped some 
more wood, made the fires up agam and all the 
time the rain drizzled and rattled on the roof of 
the little damp shelter and the light grew less 
and less and I waxed bumpier and umpier till 
when Willson relieved me and I went below to 
write my letters I felt awful. 

Things go on much as usual. We are to come 
out of the Cookhouse for a little exercise in a few 
days. We can do with some good marches — 
and we shan't know ourselves getting up at six 
instead of five and finishing work at three or four 
o'clock every day. Of course we shall return to 
the kitchen but the principle of an occasional 
week of ordinary duties is a good one. 

I can't make head or tail of my pay, last week 
it was 3/- the week before that 4/- the five weeks 
before that 10/6 each week and the week before 
those 2/6. You will let me know at once if your 
Sep allowance isn't right won't you ? 



6o WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

I wrote my son a snorter as you requested me. 
It really wasn't easy I do love him so and I could 
just see him looking pleased at getting a letter 
from Doody and then disappointed at its contents. 
Kiss him for me. 

Love. 

To his Son. 

St. Albans, Jan. nth, 1915. 

My dear Little Boy, 

Mummy writes to me that you have been 
throwing the fire irons at her and spitting again. 
I am so sorry to hear this, because it's not the sort 
of thing a nice little boy would do if he stopped 
to think and remembered that his Doody was 
away from home and he — the nice little boy — 
was the only man in the house. 

Of course I know that you arc a very nice little 
boy so I suppose you forgot just that once, but 
please do remember in future that spitting and 
throwing things is wrong and if you do it often 
you will not be a nice little boy any more. Please 
WTite to me and promise to try not to do it again 
and if you do it again in spite of trying not to 
please write and tell me yourself so that I can 
know whether my little boy at home is really a 
nice little boy still, or whether he is slowly getting 
nasty and spitty and bad tempered. 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 6i 

Here's a picture for you of me and some 

of my friends here. Please give my love to 

Emma and Firstie and write me a nice letter 

soon. 

Your loving 

DOODY. 

To his Wife. 

St. Albans, Jan. 12th, 1915. 

Sweetheart, the camera arrived quite uninjured. 
Thanks. The sleeves are a success beyond my 
wildest dreams — how very well you have finished 
them. I have tightened the hand end of each 
by tying a knot in the elastic and they now fit 
perfectly, one end tight about the wrist, the other 
over the tunic entirely protecting my coat sleeves 
shirt sleeves and cardigan sleeves from damp 
and grease. 

I love your description of Vallie reading in bed. 
Your last two or three letters have been most 
cheering — not at all depressing as you feared. 
The depressing earlier ones of course had to be 
written, too. I don't want you to only write 
when you are cheerful. Be a philosopher and 
make up your mind to stick it and keep smiling. 
It pays really. 

I think the chief reason for my hump is not hard 
to find. This Corps has been here five months 
now waiting and waiting and grumbling more and 



62 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

more the longer it had to wait till now it is in a 
very serious state of general hump — and to be 
among a lot of people who are half of them nursing 
grievances is rather depressing when one has 
quite enough to be humpy about without listening 
to others' imaginary grievances. I am convinced 
that the moment we move off we shall be right 
as can be but at present the collective view seems 
to be that Kitchener is a fraud, that our CO. 
(Commanding Officer) is an incompetent weakling 
in the hands of our S.M. — a malignant villain of 
the worst type bent on arresting everybody, our 
officers utterly worthless as soldiers and positively 
dangerous as doctors, our N.C.O.'s given over to 
favouritism, open to bribery, tyrannical etc. and 
our unfortunate Quartermaster and all that with 
him bide, are making huge fortunes by depriving 
the men of their fair allowance of mustard. 

My own view is that the CO. is a courteous, 
rather faddy, gentleman suffering from the same 
inaction that oppresses the men ; the S.M. an 
over-worked but intensely human man with the 
bump of authority a little over-developed by 
Military life, the Officers good doctors but as 
soldiers various, the N.C.O.'s remarkably fine- 
especially the sergeants. There is one earnest 
exception but he is ludicrous rather than dis- 
agreeable so long as you keep your eye on him 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 63 

and give him no chances. He is magnified by the 
dissatisfied into an ogre whom several dozen are 
going to injure seriously as soon as we get into 
action. I don't quite know how. I suggested 
that they were going to do him to death with 
roller bandages but a bloodthirsty youth assures 
me that there are plenty of other weapons to be 
found on the battlefield so I expect to see him 
blown from a derelict 75 gun or German I3 incher. 
Lots of love. 

To his Son. 

St. Albans, Jan. 13th, 1915. 

My dearest Little Boy, how are you ? I'm 
quite well — only just a little lonely sometimes 
when I want to see my Vally and his Mummy. 
I want you please to come down on Sunday and 
bring your Mummy with you. You will have to 
bring some money though because / shan't have 
enough to buy you both lunch and tea and I 
suppose you'll want them, won't you ? 

I still get up hours before you do in the morn- 
ing, only now that the middle of Winter is past, 
the mornings are getting lighter and by the time 
we have breakfast ready it is quite light ! It's 
much nicer because now we can see what we have 
cooked before giving it to the other soldiers to 
eat, and if by chance we have put the bacon into 



64 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

the tea and fried the sugar, well, we can change 
them over in time to avoid trouble. 

Will you please tell mummy that Doody may 
be off to France almost any time now and never 
to be surprised to hear that I'm off. Nobody, 
nobody, nobody knows anything about when we 
are going or where we are going, and nobody, 
nobody, nobody knows where anybody else is 
going or when, but somebody else goes every now 
and then and they go to all sorts of surprising 
places. You remember Berneval ? Well some 
of them have gone there — or to a place just like 
it, and some of them have gone to the sea-side 
like Margaret's Bay where hundreds of soldiers 
are watching for ships from Germany, and 
hundreds of other soldiers are digging trenches — 
long holes in the ground to hide in when the 
Germans come so's to be able to jump out at 
them when they don't expect it — and sometimes 
the soldiers who are watching for the ships from 
Germany are so busy watching that they forget 
to get out of the way of the others who are digging 
trenches, and the others, who are digging trenches, 
are so busy digging that they don't notice those 
who are watching for the ships from Germany, 
and they dig the trenches right under the soldiers 
who are watching, and the soldiers stop watching 
suddenly, and fall into the trenches on top of the 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 65 

ones who are digging and they all get horribly 
mixed up with the picks and the buckets and the 
shovels and then soldiers like your Doody have to 
come along — soldiers with red crosses on their 
sleeves you know — and they have to sort out the 
broken shovels and the wounded soldiers who used 
to be looking out for ships from Germany and the 
other soldiers who used to be digging. They have 
to sort them all out and patch them up and carry 
them about on stretchers like this until they 




are well enough to go on digging trenches to hide 
in or watching for ships from Germany. 

Heaps of love to your Mummy and your 
newest Nanny — you might distribute a few kisses 
wherever you think they will be appreciated 
among your Aunties and Gram and all the 
rest of the ladies at home but to every man you 
meet I want you to say WHERE IS YOUR 
UNIFORM ? — unless of course he's got one on. 

E 



66 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

St. Albans, Jan. 14th, 1915. 

Dearest little Boy. 

I've only time to write you a very short 
letter to-night. We are going to have a very 
long day to-morrow starting long before you will 
be awake — and reading this. We shall have to 
get up not much after the middle of the night 
and your own particular Doody does not like 
shaving in the dark. 
This is the way I shall look at 6 o'clock. My 



That's my overcoat 
rolled up. 



Thai's my mess tin. 



That's my water 
bottle. 




Thai long black thing 
right round me 
is my waterproof 
sheet. 



Haversack is on the other side of me where you 
can't see it in this picture. 

You know it takes an awful lot of work to make 
yourself look like that. Your overcoat has to 
be rolled up in that squashed rolly-poly shape for 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 67 

one thing. Of course I can't do that alone. The 
Scot, Galton and the man called Lion will, I hope, 
help me to fold mine and kneel on it while I strap 
it up tight and then I shall have to help them to 
fold theirs and kneel on theirs while they strap 
them up tight, and then we shall all have to help 
each other put the rolled up coats on to each 
other's shoulders and hook 'em round under each 
other's armpits on to each other's belts, and then 
the waterproof sheets have to be wuv in and out 
over and under everything. 

The funny thing is we really look quite nice 
when we've finished with each other and then — ■ 

Oh then ! 

Then the CO. stands us all up in line like this 



ffitiiiiiilfiii 



and the band plays and he walks all along the line 
and looks at us and says under his breath " Oh 
my ! Oh my ! What lovely bright buttons, 
what be-youtiful white belts." Of course you 
can't hear him saying this, but if he finds any one 
whose buttons are not bright — then you can hear 
him alright and he sounds so upset about it that 
everybody wants to cry — especially the man 
who'se got the unpolished buttons. And then we 
march miles and miles and get thoroughly muddy 



68 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

and at last the Major says " eyes right," and we 
all turn our eyes to the right and there's a nice 
little General and we all march past him, with 
our band playing like billyoh 1 and then he goes 
home and writes to our CO. and says we are the 
most bestest men he ever saw and the CO, tells 
us about the letter and, we say (under our breath 
this time) " Yes, I don't think, papa." 

And that's an inspection. 

Love to your dear Mummy and your sweet 
little turn up nose, bless it. 

Your DooDY. 



To his Wife. 

Calypso dear — I've wasted all my spare time 
writing this tosh to Vallie. It's not interesting 
to a grown up I'm afraid. Please I'll write you 
to-morrow. 

Very good luck. 

St. Albans, Jan. 15th, 1915. 
We've had a great day to-day — reviewed by the 
General (Sir Ian Hamilton) commanding the 3rd 
Army, and outshone the 4th and 5th Field Am- 
bulances to our entire satisfaction. We have no 
official assurance that we outshone them, but we 
know that if the General had eyes in his head 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 69 

we must have done so. Our Transport is in- 
finitely better than theirs and I believe we are 
better marchers — also (possibly the marching is 
thanks to it) we have the best Band in the 
Territorial London Division. Our Transport is 
really very fine. All new this month, too. 

Come down later in the week than Monday if 
you like, but I'd rather you didn't leave it too 
late. This is a hot bed of rumours of course, 
but everything points to our going away some 
day. 

I do love you so. 

St. Albans, Jan. 17th, 1915, 
We are full of rumours of departure to Hatfield 
where the 5th now are. Hatfield is nothing like 
such a comfortable town for troops as St. Albans 
is but if we are sent there we may take it as a 
compliment. You see the three brigades of the 
2nd Division are at Hatfield, Watford, and St. 
Albans but the Divisional H.Q. (Head Quarters) 
are in St. Albans which is nominally where the 
whole Division is, Hatfield and Watford being, in 
a military sense, suburbs. As far as can be 
gathered we — the 6th — came out rather strong 
at the Inspection held by Sir Ian Hamilton and 
the 5th came off rather badly, result being that 
they are to be brought to St. Albans to be more 



70 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

nearly under the Official Eye and we, as efficient 
enough to look after ourselves are sent to Hatfield 
to take their places. 

Scabies has broken out down here. Three 
cases in the 6th — one in the Cook House. He 
came around to say farewell before going to 
London to the isolation Hospital but we drove him 
off with harsh words and logs of firewood which he 
considered ridiculous behaviour seeing he had 
" only got the itch." 

I personally have since washed all the clothes 
I have got and had various baths as have many 
others in the 6th. 

Rumour hath it that we are forming still 
another reserve. 

Love. 

Hatfield, Jan. 20th, 1915. 
Fearfully uncomfortable, hungry and tired. 
Kits lost. Love to you all. 

Hatfield, Jan. 23rd, 191 5. 

Dearest, 

Quite well — ^but oh this God forsaken hole 1 
You never saw such a filth spot. 

I have quit the Cook House and got a job as 
Hospital Orderly. Serjeant King who is " Nursing 
Duties" having asked for me. A great bit of 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 71 

luck. The Hospital as a Hospital is pretty poor 
(it is the station waiting room, the orderly rooms 
being the rooms off it) but as a billet it is the only 
dry place in the town apparently and, until it fills 
up (we have 3 patients and 8 beds to date), we 
orderlies sleep in the beds. No sheets of course, 
but still beds. 

You are not hideous — you are sweetly pretty — 
if the Cinema makes you look hideous that is only 
another proof what a failure it is. 

I love the bits about Vallie in your letters. 
More please. Hope for leave to-morrow week. 

Heaps of love my dear one. 

Hatfield, Jan. 24th, 1915. 
I like my new job, though like every other job 
which the Army can offer I shall be very glad to 
leave it. In this filthy slum it is certainly a catch. 
It gives me a chair to sit on and a fire to sit by 
in my quieter moments, which only those of the 
other Military gents here who have the money 
to take a room in a cottage for their evenings can 
manage. There are about a score of pubs here, 
and not one fit to go into : uncomfortable, and 
rotten beer. One of them is certainly more comfy 
than the rest but it so swarms with Serjeants that 
it is not ideal for mere Privates. Not that the 
Serjeants are standoffish or official out of hours, 



72 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

but they are of the " drinks round again " variety 
of mortals, whom— though admiring— I cannot 
cope with. 

I think if " Art and Opp " is done in America 
and things look up I shall ask you to send me 
down something every week. More than half— 
and the nicer " more than half "—of the corps all 
are getting something a week from outside sources 
and really the Army food needs reinforcing to the 
extent of about a bob a day by tea somewhere 
and a Welsh rarebit or something before turning 
in. Of course I won't take a penny from home 
until things are better, but I feel pretty confident 
that they are going to be in a few weeks now. 

I am putting in for a pass for next weekend. I 
may not get it however as the Serjeant Ward 
Master wants to go up that day and I am becoming 
rather indispensable in the ward when he's not 
about. You would be surprised at the courage 
I am developing. I knocked off in the middle of 
this letter to shave a patient ! And did it too 
without cutting him ! I bunged a hot fomenta- 
tion on a man's eye 

Here's a man come in with temperature 101-2. 
We've got to get him to bed with a hot drink — 
there's a perfect epidemic of influenza. 

Good night -must make bed for him. 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 73 



Jan. 27th, 1915. 



DucKSOME Boy, 

My latest job is this 




and this 




God bless you my dear boy: do write to 



me. 



74 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

Hatfield, Jan. 27th, 1915. 

We are sitting under most thrilling circum- 
stances with every window covered and all 
exterior lights extinguished. Zeps are reported 
in the neighbourhood. Willson and I went for a 
walk in the pitch dark village this evening, and 
while I was buying the enclosed hanky for my 
ducksome, a policeman called on the shopkeeper 
to make him put out even the last feeble lights 
he had in his window. It is a definite order 
"lights out from 5 p.m. till further orders." 
Added to it of course are idiotic rumours. Bombs 
on London are the most reasonable report. An 
Army landed from aircraft somewhere on the 
flatter bits of England. This follows a special 
personal inspection by the General so it's been an 
exciting day. I didn't parade for the inspection 
but the A.D.M.S. bustled over in a car and in- 
spected my Hospital while I was in sole possession, 
my Sergeant Ward Master and my brother orderly 
both having been ordered to parade. 

I call it my hospital because — no swank — I 
have done a very large amount of the organising 
of it. Not the silly " Army Form B seventy- 
two " organising that drives the Sergeant mad 
but— well I have organised the food supply which 
was only prevented from breaking down the day 
I arrived by the fact that it didn't exist. I took 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 75 

it upon myself to do a tour of many addresses 
I had found on a piece of paper pasted to a ward- 
robe which the 5th Field Ambulance used when 
here. I guessed that the addresses must be of 
some sort of benefactor — at least potential. It 
turned out that they were good ladies who had 
been in the habit of supplying puddings on fixed 
days — milky puddings. I called on them — or 
their cooks and arranged for the supply to be 
resumed for us — the 6th. I then found a farm 
and ordered milk and arranged with the cook — 
my old boss — in his new Cook House to supply 
beef tea, taking back with me to the Hospital all 
the gravy from the Sergeants stew with which I 
fed my starving patients. The milk business 
has got me into hot water with the Quarter 
Master who says I should have left him to indent 
■ — or whatever the Tomfool process is — for the 
milk. However in the Corps it is almost a crime 
not to be in hot water with the Quarter Master. 
He is a most unpopular man. 

I don't want to swank really — don't laugh — 
but the Sergeant Major, whose Orderly room is 
part of the Hospital, has twice invited me in there 
to partake of whiskey with him and the second 
time kept me sitting over the fire chewing 
reminiscences till past midnight — two hours 
after " lights out." Sergeant Stadden is greatly 



76 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

impressed, the S.M. being a most correct man. 
Of course there is nothing against the S.M. fore- 
gathering and drinking in private with the ranks 
if he likes — if he thinks it wise, that is. A Com- 
missioned Officer should not, a Warrant Officer 
may if he likes, but, as a rule, the Sergeant Major 
is the most unapproachable soul in the unit. His 
position is so difficult : head of the Sergeants 
Mess, he is, in this case, the most experienced 
Medical in the Corps. He has had 27 years of it. 

I have been called up six times in the last page 
and a quarter to empty bottles etc. Forgive 
incoherence. The best of the S.M. unbending so 
to me is that he is such an interesting old chap — 
(not so old either 45 to 50 at most). He has seen 
life and death enough to stock a dozen men's 
memories and he tells it uncommon well too. 

I must get these blighters their supper. Did 
I tell you we were enjoying an epidemic of flu ? 
Every bed full, I'm back on the floor after two 
days of beautiful bed-rest. 

Oh dear — I must stop. I'd love to write a 
dozen pages about things — it is all so interesting. 

Hatfield, Jan. 28th, 1915. 

Dearest, 

If possible I should like to see something 
very cheerful on Saturday night if (it's only an if 
provisional) I get my pass. 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST ^^ 

Rushed to death — love to my dear ones all. 
Keep an eye on Mater now she's near you. 

Hatfield, Feb. 3rd, 1915. 

I've gone back to the ranks with a vengeance — 
I wanted a few marches and, my hat, I've got 'em ! 
We've done 50 tough miles in 3 days. Rather 
rough on me to return to the ranks just in time 
for so much foot slogging isn't it ? I hadn't 
done a good day's march for eleven weeks. You 
can imagine I was stiff after the first day out — 
22 miles we did. Another review by the way, 
the result of which as officially announced was 
that " General Codrington was very pleased 
with the marching of the 2nd London Division 
and especially of the 6th Field Ambulance which 
unit he considered the best turned out and 
equiped etc." He omitted to mention me by 
name but I have pointed out to the authorities 
that I was there. 

I have been transferred to a swell billet — very 
comfortable. 

Must clean up. 

Much love. 

Hatfield, Feb. 5th, 1915. 
My Dearest, 

Things are much more comfortable now. 

Got into a nice billet, 6 of us in two empty rooms 



78 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

opening off each other — good fireplace and 
windows. I have also — with 4 others — taken a 
front room in a cottage, furnished, wherein we can 
write letters — wash — talk and get our teas in 
privacy. The danger is that others may find 
out our " Club " and take to calling. It's a great 
comfort at present. Also I have found a little 
baker's shop where I can get a good breakfast for 
6d. in the charming company of Mrs. Baker and 
her daughter, when breakfasting in the Mess 
becomes unendurable — as it frequently does. 
The ten shillings has been a Godsend— really one 
needs a little over and above the net pay if one is 
to be comfortable. The food supplied is so un- 
appetising and monotonous, besides not always 
going quite round in an eatable state. 

Though I am in the stretcher bearers sub- 
division — and doing the very difficult " extended 
order " drill with them — I have been attached to 
the nursing section for lectures on dispensing 
medicine etc. — so I look like remaining always with 
the Tents either as cook (the Sergeant Cook wants 
me back as soon as I'll come to him) or Nurse. 

Hullo 9 o'clock ! Must clean up. Love. 

The gloves are excellent. 

You've heard me speak of Tailor of the Trans- 
port ? I saw him mounting to drive the water 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 79 

cart back to the Transport lines this afternoon. 
I have just heard that the horses bolted with 
him and threw him — the water cart passing over 
his leg. He is alright but for a crushed foot. 
A lucky escape. The Water cart is tremendously 
heavy — the horses extra high and hefty and it is 
•" ride-driven " from the saddle — v/hich means a 
long fall right under the wheel. 

Hatfield, Feb. 8th, 1915, 
I'm quite willing to write, but I find it in- 
creasingly difficult. This life is so monotonous 
and all privacy so unknown that letter writing 
is a disappearing art. I think I told you that 
Lion, Roffe, Capell, Willet and myself have rented 
a sitting room in a house here wherein we have 
our tea and make ourselves fairly comfortable 
but even here there are generally four of us in the 
evening — sometimes plus a couple of visitors and 
conversation is generally going on — just at present 
there is none — but Roffe is mending an allarum 
clock. 

Keep me well posted concerning Vallie won't 
you ? I am not unduly worried about him — 
you and Joan with your dozen odd certificates 
between you ought to be a match for his bronchy — 
but I might worry if I did not hear. 
We --the 6th — continue to receive compliments 



8o WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

from the Authorities. Colonel Burt the D.M.S. 
says our Hospital is clean and Codrington says 
we march well, and Sir Ian Hamilton has said we 
were not so dusty — and certain sneering gentle- 
men in khaki in St. Albans meeting some of us 
there on Sunday said : — " Hullo here come some 
of the smart sixth." So we seem to be getting 
known. 

I am at work — a line a day about — on a one 
act play for the 6th Field Ambulance which 
would also be useful for the Halls. 

Things seem to be going tremendously well, 
don't they ? I expect we shall finish the war 
up this Autumn easily now. . . . What Germany 
will have to say to the Kaiser is a question. I 
suppose you know that we shall probably be on 
Garrison duty for a couple of months after the 
War. If we do we shall have a perfectly scrump- 
tious time of it — those of us who are looking after 
Belgium and France — and if I'm one of them 
somebody'U have to find the money for you and 
Vallie to come out and stay with me. If we are 
in Germany the temper of the people will be a 
consideration. I doubt if — outside Prussia — 
they'll give much trouble. 

Oh — can you get me any good book on the 
systems of weighing and measuring in Pharmacy ? 
Doctor Beer can tell you of one for a cert — only 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 8i 

I don't want an elaborate one I have no time to 
read it. Just a text book of the weights and 
measures both here and on the Continent etc. 
Ring Beer up and ask him— give him my very 
kindest at the same time. 
Love to you all. 

We are hard at work on the extended order 
drill most mornings. It is not easy. 

To his Son. 

Hatfield, Feb. 8th, 1915. 

My Own Blossom 

I'm writing this from Hatfield. We've 
just been to church all together marching along, 
with the Band playing in front, and marching 
back and now I am back in my billet, all alone : 
Fisher and Galton and the man called Lion are all 
away on leave and Corkerel Willson is in the cook 
house still. He won't come out of it though we 
all beg him to. 

I'm sorry so to hear you have got a cough. 
I hope it is getting better every minute. Coughs 
are a nuisance, aren't they ? especially when 
they wake you up in the night. Mummy says 
in her letter — the one that you wrote some of — 
that you are being very good and I'm so glad to 
hear it. Especially when you're not very well 

F 



82 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

you must be good and kind to poor Mummy 
who probably worries about you more than she 
needs to. You see we both want you to be 
always well and strong, so that you can grow 
and grow and be such a fine big man one of 
these days. 

Does Mummy tell you how we are getting on 
with the War ? / think everything is going 
awfully well. The Germans have done another 
very silly thing. They have said they are going 
to blow up all the ships that try to come to 
England. This is just as silly as it can be because, 
for one thing, it's wrong to blow up ships and if 
they do they'll get into trouble with more people 
even than they are in trouble with now, and 
everybody will go for them, and for another thing 
they can't blow up one quarter of the ships they 
say they will, so they are pretending that they 
will do things they can't — which makes them look 
ridiculous and — well it's as if you were to lose 
your temper and say that you were going to 
throw Mummy out of the window. You couldn't 
and it would be wrong if you could. Well the 
Germans are being told now how silly and wicked 
they have been and I think they'll be sorry one of 
these days. We have sunk a lot of the ships they 
sent to sink ours. 

Please give my love to dear Mummy and tell 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 83 

her I'll write tomorrow, also tell her I'm getting 
on very comfortably now. I am going to have 
tea with the people who own the house I'm 
billeted in — awfully nice people — and this morning 
I went and had breakfast with a little baker and 
his wife in the little kitchen back of his little shop- 
Everybody is very nice to your Doody once he 
gets the chance to tell them what a nice little 
boy he's got and what a nice Mummy that little 
boy's got. 

Be very good and give Mummy a special kiss 
from me. 

Your Doody. 



To his Wife. 

Don't send anything more except the trousers. 
I'll take back the Putties and stockings next time 
I am home on leave. The white trousers I mean. 
I sleep in them. 

Hatfield continues to improve on acquaintance. 

Feb. 9th, 1915. 

The weather is improving daily — a gorgeous 
march into Hertford to-day through lovely 
country. 7 miles there 7 back — an ideal day's 
" work." Such days are our holidays and we 
love them. 



84 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

I have been over to St. Albans again last night 
for a bath. None in Hatfield — fancy a ten mile 
walk for a bath and that after the day's 
work ! 

Heaps of love to you all. Things seem to be 
going awfully well don't they ? 

Hatfield, Feb. 12th, 1915. 

Sweetheart, 

We have had a long, tiring, but very in- 
teresting day. We marched off soon after seven 
and joined on to the Division at the Gate of 
Gorlambury Park, following it into the Park and 
taking up our allotted position on the valley side. 
It was a gorgeous day and the four or five square 
miles of opposite valley-side, wonderfully visible 
were dotted over with the troops ; artillery, 
A.S.C. trains, and the 4th and 5th Ambulances. 
Behind us were several Battalions — each 1000 
men in 16 platoons (I believe) and so large was the 
open space and so clear the day that they looked 
exactly like toy soldiers set out on a green carpet. 
We pushed our waggons about a bit, changed 
positions once or twice and then bearer sections 
were drawn from amongst us to follow the 
battalions and I — left behind in a skeleton 
Tent Section — after watching them trail away, 
miles of them literally (a whole Division is 16 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 85 

miles long in column of route extended). We 
Tent Sections sketched out our site — operating, 
hospital, store tents etc — and then tacking our- 
selves onto our Transport train which had been 
performing similar theoretic acts, we marched 
back to Hatfield arriving here at 5.30. The 
bearer divisions returned an hour later. 

The most curious thing about these operations 
is their exact similarity to actual warfare in this 
at least : that the individual unless he be a Staff 
Officer of high rank, cannot make head or tail of 
the whole business, and is sorely tempted to regard 
it as the most colossal muddle, which of course 
it isn't. 

The amount of aimless wandering and waiting 
demanded of the individual (officer as well as 
private) is, of course, tremendous and, to the 
less intelligent, quite incomprehensible. Some 
men seem to think they are brought out 
solely to teach them personally their work 
and not as part of a unit which is again part 
of a division which is being taught its work 
as a whole. 

It's not unlike rehearsing a colossal production 
over a stage extending over Watford, St. Albans 
and Hatfield (I don't know how many miles of 
country) with a cast of about 18,000 performers, 
2,000 horses, and innumerable props, in the 



86 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

form of tents waggons and guns and gun 
carriages. 

You should see our horses. I doubt if any 
regular division can beat us either in heavy 
draught horses or in Officers mounts. The 
Yeomanry are wonderfully mounted, and the 
pack horses of the battalions splendid animals. 
The remount Officer happens to have been till a 
few weeks — perhaps a month — ago transport 
Officer to the 6th Field Ambulance, so of course 
he consorts considerably with our own Officers 
and we see a lot of him. He always rides the 
last word in blood mares and has a batman 
(Military parlance for a groom- valet) in attendance 
with another equally perfect. Of course it's 
swank but it looks jolly well and his side about his 
knowledge of horses is quite lovable. 

I must to bed. Thanks very much for your 
very nice letter. You shall have a P.C. or letter 
every blessed day I can manage it. Seriously 
though have I ever kept you " five or six days 
without a letter ? " Sunday till Thursday is the 
longest I can remember. 

I don't believe in the people who have " candidly 
admitted " etc. We all grumble — and we shall 
all be jolly glad when it's over but we are all most 
capable of cheering up- on the least excuse such 
as a fine day or something interesting to do. It's 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 87 

the quite unavoidable hanging about — or fatigue 
duties — in rotten weather that takes the heart out 
of us. 
Love — I must to bed. 



To his Son. 

Dear Vallie, 

I want a farm with 



Feb. 14th. 




gk and 




WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 



and 




To his Wife, 

Hatfield, Feb. 17th, 1915. 
Lai has thrown the whole 6th into a state 
of stupefaction by wiring me " Good luck " on 
my birthday. The wire reached me after many 
redirections from Orderly Room, Mess, Guard, and 
I believe the CO. himself. I do wish people 
wouldn't do these things. I am popular, con- 
sequently the chaff is not ill natured but it is — 
and will be for some days at least — excessive to 
such a degree that I am avoiding my usual haunts 
during my few off moments. The chaff I say, is 
excessive but not universal. Some of the simpler 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 89 

souls are now convinced that I am at least a 
Millionaire. One — a driver of a C.P. van in civil 
life remembers a publican he knew in his youth 
who would send telegrams about all sorts of 
things. " Just like sending a post card ! " 

Also — apart from making me look a fool — it 
frightened me out of my wits. 

We have shifted hospital — been on the job all 
day — from the Station up to the servants quarters 
over the great stables of Hatfield. Beastly 
quarters worse even than the Station. No 
general ward — a double row of cubicles with 
doors — you can guess how that doubles work. 
Moreover the genial comfort of a cosy ward— a 
very pleasant thing where only slight cases are 
treated — is exchanged for a lot of isolated patients 
on either side of a corridor. The common room 
off the corridor wherein the out-of-bed patients 
and ourselves (the Orderlies) eat and live is also 
a most cheerless dirty white washed room without 
a comfortable seat in it. We have seven in- 
patients tonight — one poisoned foot, one (poor 
old Driver Green) in a state of collapse after ten 
teeth having been extracted, one suffering from 
some nose, throat, and ear affection, one acute 
diarrhoea and sickness, one undiagnosed rash, 
one flu, one boil compared with which the biggest 
boil I have hitherto seen is a pimple. The poor 



90 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

little chap who supports this colossus nearly 
faints when it is pressed. 

Our out-cases are more interesting. One in 
particular, a finger which looked a week ago quite 
unlike a human finger, rapidly regaining its shape 
seems almost a miracle. 

I am alone in charge tonight. The Sergeant is 
not sleeping in hospital at all this week so they 
must think me fairly competent. I am now 
getting bread and milk suppers for the patients. 

Love to my duckysome and yourself. 

Hatfield, Feb. i8th, 1915. 

Opportunities to write are now greatly 
diminished : 7.50, and I am just finished for the 
day — finished more or less, that is. I am still 
liable to be called — even as I write behold one 
calleth. 

Dixon is a jolly decent sort. He had tea with 
us here to-day and cursed his, and our, luck 
in being stuck here in a most beautiful Irish 
accent. He assures me that it is no advantage 
to be an officer ; rather the reverse. Caldicott — • 
a queer, dry, irritable, but very pleasant fellow 
who was third of the tea party — is convinced that 
the war is going to last years and years and that 
we — the 6th — will not be disbanded for years 
after its all over. 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 91 

We had an awfully interesting operation 
yesterday. 
Oh help ! 

Hatfield, Feb. 22nd, 1915. 

Dearest, 

I am so miserable about Monday — and 
about to-day too — I have been trying to write to 
you all day and here it is nine o'clock suppers 
to get for 4 patients and I'm just starting. 
Hospital work is one long interruption. 

We have got a most infernal business ahead of 
us tomorrow. Up at 5 at the latest, breakfast 
at 6.30, and march away for the concentration 
at 6.45. We at the Hospital have to leave our 
Wards etc. in order, and see the relief section in 
before leaving. Hence the 5 o'clock awakening. 

I have been feeling terrible all day. An 
absolute attack of the horrors came on me in the 
night — a sort of nightmare that hung about after 
I was well awake. It was all I could do to prevent 
myself waking the other Orderly for company. 
There were devils all round me. Quite seriously 
I believe that pus and poisoned wounds if thought 
about — or looked at continuously — breed some 
sort of horror in the mind. If only wounds — the 
little wounds we get here — would be what one 
expects wounds to be instead of festering and 



92 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

swelling, I should not fear my capacity for dealing 
with the more terrible ones at the front, but these 
give me such a curious feeling after the day's work 
is over, that I wonder how I shall feel in six 
months time. The curious thing is that I can 
dress the nastiest and discuss the nastiest and 
think about the nastiest of our little nastinesses 
without the slightest feeling, but in the night 
(towards the end of my last spell as Hospital 
Orderly and again last night) I get the horrors. 

I do hope Vallie says " God bless Doody ! " at 
night. I felt last night it might do me a bit of 
good. 

Love. 

Hatfield, Feb. 25th, 1915. 

We had a jolly day to-day erecting tents against 
time and measuring out ground. The encamp- 
ment looks very pretty when completed. 

Oh Hell — more arrivals ! Very noisy. Love. 



To his Mother. 

Hatfield, Feb. 26th, 19 15. 

Dearest Mater 

Dont apologise for " neglecting me " for a 
few days when at the end of them you send me two 
closely written giant pages. This letter of yours 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 93 

is just the sort of letter I like. If you only write 
to me once a week a good long newsy letter I 
shall be a lot better pleased than I should be with 
seven scrappy ones. 

Why " cant " type ? Lesser brains than 

his have mastered that difficult art. Typing 
one's own work is a most valuable last glance over 
it in print form. People who are superior to the 
appearance in print of their paragraphs are as 
hopeless in literature as the people who are 
superior to mere audibleness on the stage. 

My news is I have done my second week 

as Hospital Orderly (We do one in three). A 
fearful field day covering 30 miles and lasting 
(without a meal) from 6.45 a.m. till 8.25 p.m. 
The last four hours in soaking rain through which 
we (a small detached band of Stretcher Bearers—- 
not the whole 6th) marched the ten miles home at a 
pace which left the shorter legged several paces 
in the rear, until a staff-officer overtaking us 
blew the Lieutenant in charge of us up severely. 
The Lieutenant in question had been previously 
thrown from his horse and was covered with 
mud. We had to march down a road — a bad 
side lane really — along which all the Artillery 
of the Division had preceded us. It was a muddy 
road at best and flooded in places. You can only 
faintly imagine the foot deep surface of clay we 



94 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

had to splash through for over a mile. Every 
footstep flung mud higher than our waists. — Some 
times higher than our heads. It was a creamy 
job. The whole day — wet and muddy and tiring, 
(we were in full marching order all the time) was 
most fascinating though. It ended by the 
stretcher bearers, of whom I was one being 
marched straight into the sergeant's mess and 
there served with dinner (rabbit stew) and a 
glass each of the sergeants' beer, the Sergeant 
Major himself presiding and forcibly preventing 
any of the over weariest of us from turning from 
the food and slipping off to his billet and turning 
in unfed, and the rest of the Sergeants acting as 
waiters and bar keepers. I believe our little 
party did as hard a day's work, as has been done 
in this part of the country, and not one fell out. 
Of course it was an accident that landed such a 
task upon us. We should have either gone to 
the concentration point by train as the Battalion 
did or returned from St. Albans by train and motor 
as the rest of the Field Ambulance did, but — 
true to the conditions of actual warfare — (by 
chance) — we went out as a Field Ambulance 
Stretcher hearers sub division and returned as 
auxiliary stretcher bearers to a battalion of infantry, 
a change of character which may easily occur in a 
real engagement if the S.B. sub div. follows the 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 95 

Batt. reserves until they become supports and 
still further until they become first line and the 
rest of the Field Amb. being threatened or other- 
wise compelled to move off, the communications 
between S. B.s and Tent sub divisions are 
broken. 

You are all wrong about Russia. She knows 
her game. The conditions in the East are 
absolutely unsuited to the digging in policy we 
have followed in the West. Trenching in East 
Prussia and Northern Poland would cost more 
men every week from pneumonia, frost-bite and 
possibly drowning — than even a retreat like this 
last one, Russia has ample money — more than 
all the rest of Europe is the general belief. Make 
up your mind to this : a retreat means nothing 
unless it is an entire line that is withdra^vn or 
unless the retreat leaves one end of the line " in 
the air " and within striking distance of the 
enemy. Retirements here or there in a line may 
lead to something but they are in themselves 
nothing but evasions of blows ; sometimes at a 
cost in men and guns ; but that cost is generally 
about equal to the losses inflicted upon the 
attacker who fails to bring his blow home. 
Russia is being attacked much more vehemently 
than the Allies in the West are, and the greater 
swaying backwards and forwards of her line is 



96 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

very like the dodging and " footwork " of a clever 
boxer when his opponent tries to " finish him 
quickly." 



Must wash. 



Heaps of love, 



To his Wife. 

Hatfield, Feb. 26th, 1915. 

Dearest. 

Of all the dismal fates, I have been made 
Orderly Room Orderly. No more marching ! 
And just while this lovely weather is coming 
along. I don't mind being Hospital Orderly 
because the work is intensely interesting, although 
tiring ; and also it is only for one week in three * 
but Orderly Room work is eternal — chiefly 
clerical, relieved only by spells of housemaid's 
work and running errands. It is nervous work 
too. Lighting the C.O.'s fire and sweeping and 
dusting his room is alright, but tidying up his 
papers gives me the shudders. They all look so 
wildly official and important. 

I am typing this on the S.M.'s typewriter — an 
Oliver, I don't think I am doing so badly with it, 
do you ? I am not going at all slow, and it is 
the first time I have tried it. 

I stand no chance at all of a pass this week end 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 97 

after my special of last Wednesday, but I shall 
make out one for next week end. One does these 
things for oneself in the Orderly Room. Oh, I 
tell you it's we that's the rogues. I thought the 
kitchen was the one true abode of cheatery with 
the Q.M.'s stores as a sort of home from home, but 
we in the Orderly Room are the great rogues. 

My brothers in crime, are Sergeant Treadwell 
a big-boned six-footer dark moustached (Inter- 
ruption — " Chap in, op it and get your tea " — 
I obeyed immediately. One of the humours of 
Military life is the way you have to jump to your 
opportunities before they fade, I spent an hour 
and a half over the tea — to continue) — dark 
moustached and rather sinister looking, really a 
practical joker and most easy going. Corporal 
Sulivan a little fair man who was through the 
S. African War, He looks about 28 but is really 
nearer forty-eight. He is our Postman and is a 
postal clerk in private life. These are the N.C.O.'s 
Treadwell as Orderly Room Sergeant and Sulivan 
as Corporal. They both know their business 
backwards but are bad hands at imparting its 
intricacies to a new comer, being very inarticulate 
on technical matters. The S.M. of course spends 
most of his time in the Orderly Room and the 
C.O.'s room is adjoining. My fellow Orderlies 
are Trotman, whom you know, a tall boy, only 

G 



98 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

nineteen, name of Corby good natured and an 
excellent clerk, and Chattin also tall and a 
linguist — German and French like a dozen natives 
having lived in those parts in his youth. 
Good-night — Love to my boy. 

Hatfield, March ist, 1915. 

I do believe there is some sort of a cherub sitting 
up aloft looking after me. You know how 
absolutely sick I was at being put into the Orderly 
Room. I can't exaggerate how I hate the work. 
Absolutely no exercise — and in this lovely weather 
being penned up all day. 

(Broken off to type " Fieldstate ") 

Well — the CO. has just returned suffering from 
the accumulated energies of five days absence 
and struck an idea. Each Section is to do the 
departmental work for a week commencing 
Monday (to-morrow) with A Section, so — unless 
the horrified Sergeants can dissuade him — I 
return to the ranks to-morrow after four days of 
the beastly place. I'm in C. 

Monday. 

It's happened ! A is doing it all. Hospital, 
Guard Room. Orderly Room. Cook House. 
Quarter-Master's Stores. Fatigues, for one week. 
B. starts next week ditto then C. Whether I 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 99 

shall be bagged for Hospital, Cook House or 
Orderly Room remains to be seen. 

We had a jolly day to-day pitching tents for a 
couple of hours with a pleasant march out to 
selected site and back. Weather blowy and a 
shower or two but on the whole excellent. 

I shall be at liberty to rehearse from 10 till 
12.30 Thursday. Dentist at i. Shall not ask for 
afternoon pass. S.M. away and his substitutes — 
though good souls — too inclined to refuse any 
unusual requests in a halting " can't you wait till 
the S.M. comes back " sort of way. They daren't 
do anything out of the routine. 

I want you and the Treasure to come down this 
Saturday or Sunday or some day next week. 
Love to the Nipper. 

Hatfield, March 2nd, 1915. 

How do you like the Dardanelles touch ? And 
Russia's retirement ending in a strategically 
stronger front for her and a very much worse 
supplied front for Germany ? If I am not very 
much mistaken, NOVEMBER will see the end 
of it. I am willing to bet on it. The Dardanelles 
must make a tremendous impression on Greece 
and the Balkan States and Italy : and that counts 
for a lot. I am tremendously pleased over the 
whole situation — including the German blockade 



100 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

failing to account for even one ship per day on the 
first ten days. 

We had a great day to-day. Each man cooked 
his own dinner in the field : plenty of time allowed 
us to do so — a regular picnic. 

The Imperial Service Units have been altered 
in nomenclature by Army Order to ist Line, so 
your husband is now in a First Line Unit serving 
in a First Line Division. The alteration is only 
in name. We have been really first line all along, 
but it's pleasant to be called ist Line troops which 
has a definite meaning instead of a fancy name 
like Imperial Service which sounds like Optimists 
and United Arts and other abominations. 
Lights out. 

Hatfield, March 8th, I9i5f 
We are very busy. Issues of underwear, etc. 
going on fast. I was on packing stores all after- 
noon. There is a ten o'clock parade to-night for 
those who have not yet got various non-essentials. 
Rumour says that we move off during the week. 
God bless you my darlings. 

Hatfield, March gth, 1915. 
Rumours of departure " by the galore " as 
Jack expresses it, I really think we shall be 
moving off in the course of this week or at the 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST loi 

latest next. I don't quite know how we shall let 
our folks know when we are really off. I will 
try to send a wire, but — for obvious reasons, we 
may be prevented. We shall probably sail from 
Avonmouth which means St. Nazare or Havre 
and some base in Western France. It's a long 
way round from Avonmouth, but safer than the 
Channel. Some of the Division are moving off 
to-day or to-morrow. 

I am not going to suggest you and Vallie coming 
down. It would be a trying business for you. 
We never know when we shall be wanted to draw 
stores etc. Some men have had their wives down 
and been lucky enough to get off. Others have 
jigged about on parade or tinkered about with 
stores while their womenfolk stood on street 
corners and waited for them. I don't want none 
of that, thank you. 

No leave now. Poor devils who were to have 
gone when I returned try to tell me how much 
they hate me but words are not equal to it. 

Hatfield, March loth, 1915. 
We did a parade in full going away order this 
morning. It is tremendously heavy. I scale 
13 stone 9 pounds in it without my 5 lbs. of iron 
rations (emergency food) so I shall march weighing 
fourteen stone ! They don't expect more than 



102 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

15 miles out of us at that, though, as an absolute 
limiti 

Nobody knows where we are going to. Dixon 
gave us a most impassioned lecture on morals 
to-day, in which he said France. That seems 
quite certain anyway. 

We spend an awful lot of time waiting for 
orders it is very tedious. If I were sure of being 
here to receive you I'd ask you to come down 
to-morrow but I'm not. Some of the ba4:talion 
moved off at two hours' notice last night. 

Don't worry too much about me when I get out. 
The Club except for Willson are going tea-total 
en masse. Also I'm not a kid, I've been inocu- 
lated recently — and I'm not afraid of infection in 
the least. 

Heaps of love Dear. Will write again to- 
morrow unless I've departed. 

Hatfield Still. 
We haven't departed yet, dearest, but we are 
certainly off in the course of the next week or ten 
days. New boots, pants, " jumpers " (a sort 
of undershirt with short sleeves and low neck), 
body belts, have been issued all round. Also the 
various minor impedimenta that are usually so 
hard to get out of the Quarter Master's Stores 
can be had for the asking. " Puttees ? " V Take 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 103 

some ! "■ " Straps ? " " Over there ! " But for 
the fact that we have had to hand over all surplus 
kits and clothes, the more acquisitive of us would 
be making museums. Everything spare has been 
taken from us. We are to go out with what we can 
carry on our own backs and shoulders and no 
more. We may wear as much as we like in the 
way of underwear — one tunic, one pair trousers, 
one pair puttees, one pair boots, one cap. Then 
on our back we carry our " pack " : great coat 
folded with socks, spare shirt, spare pants in it. 
Across our shoulders our blanket and waterproof 
sheet. On our L. our Haversack containing hold 
all (razor etc.) towel, soap and rations (5 lbs.) on 
our R. our waterbottle. 

I want at once the best photo of you with the 
eyes showing and one of Vallie with the Teddy 
Bear, looking at me. You know the picture. 
Also will you please go — or send Joan — to Gamages 
for the biggest Haversack they sell ? It needn't 
be an expensive one, just a large strong canvas one. 
I will pay for it out of kit allowance which I shall 
draw when we go. Also please send me my money 
belt. 

Please send them at once we may be off at an 
hour's notice any time. That is why I do not 
suggest that you should come down. It would 
be too awful if you turned up just after I had gone, 



104 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

wouldn't it ? We had four days together. 75 
per cent, of the men haven't had their leave at alL 
I was told in the Orderly Room to-day that three 
hours' notice would be about what we should 
probably get and no time therein to send wires. 

Yes it is certainly France — any way at first. 

Bless you —heaps of love. 

Hatfield, March nth, 19 15. 

We are not off yet — delays in rest of Division 
suggest we shall not move before next week so 
will you come down Saturday any time you like ? 
If we do move off I will wire. 

I do so want to see you. Fearful hump. Love. 

Hatfield, March 12th, 19 15. 

I'd love you to give me a wave — I'm so glad you 
want to. The Devil of it is that we — all Military 
Units — move off secretly, and unexpectedly. We 
know we are going and soon but how soon nobody 
knows — it may be in a couple of hours' time —it 
may not be until the middle of next week — or the 
end. The Captain of the A.S.C. unit which was 
attached to us had his wife sta3dng with him in 
St. Albans and Mr. Day met her and told her he'd 
gone one day. She wouldn't believe it but he had. 
Then a few days later he came back ! 

You come along and have an afternoon with me 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 105 

to-morrow (Saturday) — I'd like to see Vallie too 
if you can bring him and Joan too. They are all 
invited to the Club to tea. Come as soon after 
I as you please and wire me what train you are 
coming by and we will discuss how you are to see 
me off. It may be workable. 

Heaps of love. 

Oh — dress just as smart as you know how 
compatible with travelling, and ditto Joan and 
Vallie, The Club must be paralysed. 

March 15th, 191 5. 

We are sitting 8 in a compartment in our train 
waiting to get into Southampton. Have been 
waiting over an hour and the Engine Driver on a 
train beside us tells us he has to get in and out 
before we can. The line is very congested. Good 
thing I didn't try to let you know our route — we 
haven't followed it a bit — been all round London 
to get here. Acton nearest point. 

We paraded at 3 a.m. this morning breakfasted 
at once and paraded in going away order at 4. 
Transport waggons harnessed and us arranged and 
counted by 5 when we marched to St. Albans 
where we are : 

March 15th, 1915. 

We are now penned in a shed — 2.20 — pre- 
paratory to embarking. It is one of those huge 



io6 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

sheds you must know at docks — over loo yards 
long by 50 odd broad — not unlike a skating rink. 
Two thirds of the floor space is covered with men 
lying at length or reclining on one arm, their 
coats over them their arms, caps, belts etc by their 
side. We have just been invited to make our- 
selves comfy — mustn't leave shed. There is a 
buffet in one corner I'm going to have some tea. 
I wish you could see this half acre of worn Khaki 
in the dusty half light. It's a picture worth a lot 
and it's so amazing it should be alive and real. 



LETTERS FROM FRANCE. 

To his Wife. 

France, March i8th, 1915. 

Here we are in France — journey not finished 
yet. We had an ideal crossing — and a most 
amazing one. I believe every square yard of the 
Channel has its own British T.B. Destroyer — 
queer black shapes with rectangular outlines, 
hard and well drawn against the dark sky or the 
streams of light from more distant warships. 
I never saw one in detail with the light upon it — 
always in silhouette against the light. We 
steamed with lights out nearly all the way. I 
slept on deck — not over warm — but I kept getting 
up to see the latest sight as one or other called me 
and so kept warm. 

We are fed on Bully Beef (ordinary Fray 
Bentos, you know the brand) and lovely hard 
biscuits which I adore. Last night I added to my 
menu a bloater and some bread and marmalade, 
" duff " and coffee — having scraped an acquaint- 
ance with some of the engine room artificers who 

107 



io8 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

invited me to sup in the fo'castle. It was very 
hot in there but we supped in low neck. Great 
fun ! 

Bye bye — Love to my blessed boy — Try to 
read him as much of my letters as he will under- 
stand. I do miss him so and I want him to hear 
about me all he can so's we shan't be strangers 
when we meet next. Rubbish I know, but still 
I'm not quite joking. He's growing so fast. 

An unfortunate ofhcer has got to read this and a 
hundred more letters, so I'll cut it short. Bless 
you. 

France, March 22nd, 1915. 

Dearest. 

We took four days to get here, but here 
we are at last. " Here " being a little hamlet of 
farms, estaminets and shops, with the usual 
Mairie and Church, into every barn and spare room 
of which we are packed like sardines. It is now 
Sunday. We have shifted our billet three times 
in the three days we have been here, each change 
being for the better until last night we were 
comfortable enough not to want to change again. 
The weather to-day is excellent. The first day 
here — Friday — was a mixture of sunshine, snow 
and sleet. It is still very cold at nights. 

The journey was most amusing. A Field 
Ambulance is uncommonly like a circus in more 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 109 

ways than one, and, though the band have packed 
their instniments, it still retains its resemblance 
to one. I was on duty with a party in the hold 
of the ship at the port, sending up the loaded 
waggons on the cranes on Tuesday. The number 
of clowns running about and pretending to work 
was, perhaps excessive but they did it so funnily 
that it didn't matter. 

From the port we came here by train, travelling 
in cattle trucks which, with plenty of straw laid 
down, are much more comfortable than ordinary 
carriages for a long journey — twenty-two and a 
half hours. Don't try to guess from that where 
we are because you'll never do it. We wander 
all over the map. 

Between the night on the boat and the night 
on the train, we had a night at a camp half a 
dozen miles outside the port. That — Tuesday- 
night and last night were the only decent nights' 
sleep I have had since I saw you last Saturday. 
I feel amazingly fit never the less. Certainly I 
am a little sleepy this afternoon and we are all 
going to turn in early but, with the rest, I am 
feeling as fit as possible. Quite fit in fact. 

We are rather drastically treated here : for- 
bidden to go into cafes which — as the water is not 
to be taken unless boiled and the Army tea is 
quite undrinkable — is rather hard. Still we hope 



no WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

that the order is only temporary. We went into 
cafes up to yesterday — and very nice cafe-au-lait 
they give — or gave us too. A surprisingly large 
number of us are teetotallers. My Billet of eight 
contains six, and the remaining two — of whom I 
am one are T.T. for the duration of the War. 

We had the good fortune for three days to have 
our tea and sugar issued to us dry which enabled 
us by obtaining hot water to make our own tea 
in our mess tins, but that's over now and the 
stewed dixie tea is all we can get. Au reste the 
food is excellent when one gets it. We are not yet 
established here of course. Still even our worst 
spell — about 40 hours without meat — was quite 
endurable as we had unlimited biscuits, jam, and 
cheese, and were able to get good tea and chocolate 
and cakes at a buffet run for soldiers at the station 
at the port. 

We are much nearer the firing line than I 
expected we would be in the first few weeks in 
France, but far enough away for the war still to 
seem incredibly remote. Some Indian Cavalry 
whom we saw almost convinced me it was in 
India. 

Sergeant Moss, Fisher and myself with Lieut. 
Sadler and the R.C. Padre came here in advance 
of the rest by some hours to secure billets. It was 
most thrilling, setting out in the dark, seeking our 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST iii 

way to an unkno\\Ti hamlet by dint of much 
knocking up of wayside inhabitants. 

Friday I spent billeting with Moss in the 
morning and in the afternoon, Fisher and I were 
first on duty in a temporary hospital. Saturday 
I had to draw stores from the A.S.C. a great 
rumour shop. What you can't hear there isn't 
worth hearing, 

I want now a Walker's Loose Leaf pocket book, 
size about this sheet of paper, (I think they're 
called Walker's Loose Leaf Diaries but don't 
know. The shop in Charing Cross Road next to 
the Hippodrome sells them), a small French 
dictionary — a copy of " Well made Dress Coat," 
some thin writing paper quarto or foolscap size, 
some thin " foreign " note paper and envelopes 
(not a great many), and later I shall always be 
glad of English matches, bulls eyes, condensed 
milk (Ideal), Craven mixture or John Cotton 
(medium), also my pocket book. 

Heaps of love to my Baby and his dear Mummy 
and everyone. 



To his Mother-in-law. 

France, March 23rd, 1915. 
We are having a most amazing time here : the 
whole countryside under strictest Martial Law ; 



112 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

swarming with troops and supply-trains ; under 
hourly expectation of aerial attack in one quarter 
or another ; yet orderly, peaceful and apparently 
quite unafraid, with us lounging in every farm yard 
and by every shady wall, resting after our not 
very fatiguing journey here. It is like a pleasant 
holiday for the greater part of the day. I don't 
suppose it will last long though. 

You might buck everybody you know up to 
come out and finish this war. It looks like an 
everlasting to everlasting business out here. 
The French people about here seem quite resigned 
to a several years' struggle. It needn't be that, 
though, if only England will buck up. 

Love to you and Lai. I go on Guard to-night, 
so no sleep for me till the next night. I don't 
mind. 

Sunday, April nth, 1915. 

Thanks very much to both of you for the quid. 
It will be most useful when next we are in a town 
large enough to support a restaurant. I have put 
it aside against that happy day. 

We were in such a town only last week but under 
such conditions that we only left our headquarters 
for an hour in two days. At present we are back 
in our Monastery, inventing rumours for each 
other, and swallowing everything we are told 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 113 

about our next move by the sergeants, who are 
as great rumour merchants as ourselves. 

I am writing in a hurry to catch a 2 p.m. post. 
Envelopes were only issued at first parade this 
morning and only " green envelope " correspond- 
ence is to pass to-day. Most of the time between 
first parade and 2 o'clock is not available for 
letter writing. 

Our chief entertainment here is coffee and 
aeroplanes — frequently under fire now. 

Love to you all. 



To his Wife. 

France, March 25th, 1915. 

Dearest. 

We haven't had much to do since I last 
wrote to you. I had charge of a job after your 
own heart the day before yesterday, the cleaning 
of a stone outhouse and rigging up therein of a 
boiler wherein to boil the clothes of scaby patients. 
The outhouse had apparently been occupied by 
cattle for some years and then — for two winter 
months — by Indians and, besides heaps of filth 
in the corners and much loose straw, some relicks 
of fires and so forth, there was a solid, heavily 
trodden stratum of filth, some six inches thick 
which had to be dug out before the brick floor 

H 



114 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

could be reached. Gods ! how it stank ! sour, 
putrid, and Oriental by turns. We got it all out 
at last, though and the old boiler — which we had 
found — rigged up. I had 12 men on the job 
and I took them out and stood them coffee after- 
wards. They had earned it. 

We are allowed into cafes now — at certain 
hours — II to 2.30 and 6 to 7.30. 

I am just off to meet the post. Hope there is 
something for me by it. I'll keep this open in 
case. 

Post not in yet. I must finish this or I shall 
miss the outward bound one. We have had our 
third issue of tobacco to-daj^ and yesterday — it 
having rained all day and the men being rather 
damp — a ration of rum was issued. I had a 
whack but never again. It was filthy. Half the 
T.T.'s turned out for some ; regarding the first 
issue — as I did — as a rite not to be missed. Their 
antics afterwards were a study. There's no 
denying it warms you. We were all well frozen 
waiting for it — but hot coffee is I think a much 
pleasanter means to that end. I am drinking 
all the cafe au lait I can get. They make it 
beautifully about here. Not with heaps of 
chicory as at Bernaval. 

The cooking is irnproving greatly, the tea for 
two days having been really good — but, oh, for 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 115 

some milk in it ! The night I was corporal of the 
guard, I had milk from the S.M.'s tin. 

To his Mother. 

France, March 27th, 1915. 

Dearest Mater 

Your post card and letter received. Of 
course you know it is not always possible to write 
from here. 

We have been in this village a week now, shifting 
about a lot, but still not absolutely moving away. 
We have founded a temporary Hospital and moved 
it again. Fisher and I handled the first case — a 
pleurisy one. 

We are cut off from all news here. — Latest is 
Tuesday morning's announcement of fall of 
Przchemysl. We live on rumours. The general 
impression is not one of a victorious army — or 
indeed an army at all — but rather of a great 
industrial district, rather unsuitably housed — 
a more or less improved industrial district perhaps. 
The impression also soaking into me is that, unless 
a miracle occurs, it harbours an industry that will 
go on forever. The other side of the German 
lines is spoken of by the peasants as if it were 
separated by an English channel or a Pyranees 
rather than by a destructible barrier of men and 
guns. I am not pessimistic, but I do wish England 



ii6 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

would buck up. You see no young men here — 
not one. The women are doing all those things 
the men in England seem to think can't be done 
without them ; and doing them well. The farms 
are thriving — the threshing, long delayed, is now 
being done. Cattle, poultry and rabbits are 
everywhere in spite of many losses. 

Certainly this usually poor and squalid part 
of France looks poorer and squalider than ever, 
but in the essentials of livestock it is not greatly 
so. I have seen some — to me — very distressing 
sights of farm machinery — threshing machines, 
seed droppers, ploughs etc., left to rust and ruin, 
but not by the smaller peasants, by the more 
important folk who departed for safer neighbour- 
hoods when the war broke out. 

I was corporal of the guard night before last. 
The night watches are very strange. The sun 
sung down by a crowd of our men half a mile 
away in a barn, warbling music hall ditties ; then 
a slight shower and a crescent moon crossed by 
many clouds, a curious murmuring, gabbling 
chant — women with candles, praying to the 
Madonna at a shrine near by — then long hours 
of silence broken by the occasional whirr of a 
motor or motor ambulance — one bearing a case 
of " Pottermain Poisoning " so the A.S.C. driver 
told me. Towards dawn faint guns in the 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 117 

distance — so far off that a loud snore in the guard 
room drowned them easily even to me standing 
outside. I've no idea where they were. Forty 
miles away probably. Still they were real guns 
and most impressive therefor. 



To his Son. 

France, March 30th, 1915. 

Hullo Vallie ! I'm in France at the war at 
last. How are you ? We are having such a 
funny time all sleeping on straw on the floor — 
think of that when you get into your little cribble- 
cot to-night. 

I am sitting writing this on a sack on the ground 
with my back against Jack's. You remember 
Jack the cook ? In front of me are all the horses 
in rows and rows tied to pegs driven into the 
ground. They are tied by the head — the way 
Modestine used to be — to one peg and by the 
hind foot to another peg to prevent them turning 
round and kicking each other. They don't like 
having their hind foots tied and pull at them and 
swear with their ears and top lips. You remember 
how your Modestine used to swear with her ears. 
They try to kick too, just as she used to do. 

There are soldiers all about here all busy shoving 
the Germans back and shoving the Germans back 



ii8 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

and SHOVING the Germans back, and sooner or 
later we shall shove the whole lot of them right 
back into Germany over the Rhine — which is a 
big river — bigger than the river at Maidenhead — 
RIGHT back into Germany and off their feet, 
and then we shall sit on their heads severely until 
they have had enough, and then the war will be 
over, and we shall just have to tidy up and come 
home and I shall come home to you my Darling 
and the Blessed Mummy and the nice flat at 
St. John's Wood, and oh, I do hope it will be soon 
because I want to see you and Mummy most 
awfully. 

Good bye my precious, please give my love to 
Gram and tell her I wish I could have some 
English Turkey. And please Vallie send every- 
body you can out here to help shove, because the 
sooner the Germans are shoved over and the more 
of us there are to sit on their heads, the sooner I 
shall see you all again. 

Your DooDY. 



To his Wife. 

France, March 30th, 191 5. 

Dearest 

Sorry not to have written yesterday. We 
made a move which occupied all day ; my 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 119 

beautiful boiler house left behind for the next 
comer. We are now housed in a small Monastery 
which is also a farm. The whole 6th is in one 
building and a devil of a squeeze it is too. All the 
men are on the top floor under the roof — a regular 
forest of beams. I had just room to be at length 
last night and no more. I could touch seven 
men without changing my position. We had a 
little straw and just our one blanket apiece and 
it was too cold to sleep except in snatches. I 
found some water in my mess tin hanging by my 
head frozen this morning. 

The weather is curious, freezing every night and 
cold winds but out of the wind and in the sun 
it is now (noon) quite warm. 

We hope — that is C Section hopes — to push 
on soon leaving A as Hospital Section at this, our 
base. I don't know if we have any ground for 
this hope. It would be very nice. I am sure 
we should be more comfortable cut up into 
sections under our own section officers. 

It's only ten past twelve and I am starving for 
my dmner. We had an inane religious service 
in the open this morning at 8.40. For some 
obscure reason we were sent forth to it without 
our greatcoats and standing at ease we nearly 
froze in the cutting wind. All the infantry 
present wore greatcoated. I suppose it was a 



120 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

slip on someone's part. It's a bad principle that 
makes two hundred uncomfortable for one man's 
error. 

Oh ! I'm hungry. You can send me some cake 
or chocolate as soon and as often as you like, if 
I am going to feel like this long. I can smell the 
stew cooking and I fancy there are onions and 
carrots in it. Hope I get a LARGE helping. 

Heaps of love to you. The rest is for my 
ducksome. 

France, April ist, 1915. 

I started a letter yesterday — before the arrival 
of the long letter and the parcel and, being inter- 
rupted to help unload a cart waggon (let's be 
accurate) I put it in my pocket. It was greatly 
injured at the treatment. I enclose a copy 
because I want to rub it in as written and because 
the original is almost unreadable. 

Here beginneth : — 

" Dearest. 

I am sitting by the gate watching for the 
supply waggon which will also bring the letters. 
I do hope you have written to me " 

Copy ceases. It's getting too affecting. Really 
dear, though, I do wish you would write to me 
every other day at least and arrange with Mater 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 121 

to write on the intervening days. A letter makes 
the most amazing difference to my state of mind. 
When I get no letter I am a downtrodden worm 
put upon by my superiors and hated by my 
inferiors. When I get a nice long letter I'm it. 

I'm writing lightly but it's curiously true. The 
psychology of a Lance Corporal on Active Service 
is a wonderful thing. 

Things are going on very well now. They even 
issue us matches and the papers are given out 
quite regularly. 

Concerning grumbles — I am bound to do a 
certain amount. We are awfully subject to fits of 
depression all of us — and to anyone with a hump 
many of the minor ills of active service are very 
galling because of their resemblance to unnecessary 
impositions — Jack calls it their unstandupagainst- 
ableness. When you have a hump, an officer, 
who loses his way and has to ask it of passers by, 
becomes an incompetent idiot who will probably 
lead you straight into the German lines the first 
time you go out. When you feel cheerful — that 
is to say when letters have been arriving freely — 
it is merely a link between men and officers to 
find that the latter are fallable. Someone else with 
a hump is reproved for lack of charitableness, if 
he says anything such as j^ou yourself were saying 
yesterday. 



122 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

It's an up and down business, but oh ! the Hump 
of yesterday ! I beheve I even hated Willet. 

The Bishop of London paid us a visit on Monday 
and gave a very good address. I Hke the old 
chap. It was a curious service — several battalions 
sent such men as could come — the R.F.A. and 
Engineers were there and some others. We 
formed a square— in the centre was a transport 
waggon the far side of the square was our band. 
We led off with a few words from the Bishop. 
London sent us its love (Bless it). Then a hymn. 
Then a Liturgy from the Russian slightly adapted 
— excellent and went very well indeed. 

" Master, Lord God, Father Almighty and 
Adorable, meet it is and right to bless Thee, to 
glorify Thee, and to offer Thee with a contrite 
heart these our humble supplications." 

Good beginning, isn't it ? And then : — 

" And for those also, O Lord, the humble 
beasts, who with us bear the burden and heat of 
the day and whose guileless lives are offered for 
the wellbeing of their countries, we supplicate Thy 
great tenderness of heart for Thou, Lord, shaft 
save both man and beast, and great is Thy loving 
kindness, O Master, Saviour of the World." 

Isn't that nice ? After that a sermon of sorts — 
another hymn, " God speed you all " said his 
Grace and we went back to work. 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 123 

I have found — in an outhouse we were cleaning 
to serve as a store — under a foot of stale straw a 
little blue gray box that looked familiar — and on 
it in gold letters was Taylor, Sauchiehall Street, 
Glasgow ! The shop where you bought me my 
amethyst set ! 

The parcel arrived quite safely. Nothing in 
the letter was superfluous, the Dictionary is 
perfect — 

And I love you very much. 



To Ms Mother. 

April 2nd, 1915. 

Dearest Mater 

We have now settled down (to settle down 
on active service only means that the necessary 
arrangements for a stay are made). We " settled 

down " last week in and cleared out a few 

days later. We have now settled down in a 
Monastery in a village in a mining-cum-arable 
sort of country. It is very like some parts of 
Durham in appearance. We have given the old 
place the first scrub for — I should say — several 
centuries and have turned it into a hospital, 
barracks, stables, with officers, men, and patients 
all under one roof — rather a crush. 

Aeroplanes are every day — almost every hour — 



124 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

occurrences, and bombs are dropped here and 
there about the country in general in charming 
profusion. They seem to do amazingly slight 
damage — especially to the military (either men or 
works). The civil population suffer slightly but 
apparently no more than does the London public 
from traffic and fires. 

We can hear the guns nightly, — when the 
troops keep quiet. They cheer me up enormously. 
• — dispel the feeling that there's no progress being 
made. " Surely a noise that can be heard all 
those miles away must do some good " ses L I 
want to get the damned war over and get home 
to certain people — our mutual acquaintances — 
and to work. I'm sick of being out of it at home 
without being really in it out here. Still I suppose 
we are some use. — We must be or they wouldn't 
pay us and feed us — feed us very well too as army 
food goes. It gets monotonous at the best. My 
chief objection is the The-a-la-chloride-of-lime. I 
am longing for a good cup of tea again. The 
chloride of lime in ours comes from the water- 
carts. In theory it sterilizes the water and then 
settles, leaving no perceptible flavour. In prac- 
tice, it may sterilize the water all right, but it 
resolutely declines to altogether settle. Sufficient 
remaining in solution to flavour tea very strongly. 
The water drunk cold is quite inoffensive. Our 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 125 

water cart men may find out a few wrinkles soon 
which they are not yet up to. At present they 
are erring on the side of hygiene, — which is quite 
satisfactory in this land of cess-pools, latrines and 
mud, now rapidly dessicating and drying into 
very fine and — I am sure— very buggy dust. 
I prefer buggy to germinous, don't you ? Dixon 
— who is delightfully Irish — simplified the whole 
micro-organic world into " the bugs get in through 
the cut and etc," — and it has stuck. He — Dixon 
— is now a very energetic Quartermaster. Some 
Quartermaster, I tells yer. If any other unit can 
be robbed to feed the 6th Field Ambulance I'll 
back him to rob it. And if any other unit is out 
to rob us — as of course they are — in this highly 
adaptable army — he'll scotch 'em if any one can. 
Of course war hath her victories and the other side 
— the other unit — must come off best sometimes, 
(Aeroplane over head.) 
The funny thing is we never mention or think 
of the gentlemen the other side of the firing line. 
Supplying them with shells per rapid transit ; 
watching them, shifting them here and being 
shifted by them there ; is just our industry, our 
occupation. Our enemies are the fellows in the 
next barrack room who pinch our straw, the 
5th Field Ambulance who dare to consider them- 
selves our equals. The sergeants' mess is our 



126 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

mortal foe three days a week and our sworn ally 
the other three (I am assuming a dies non occasion- 
ally). We make war upon certain cliques — ■ 
(Anglice Clicks) and against certain cafes where 
they wont give more than 50 centimes for a 
ed. bit. 
That's us. We're a rum lot. 
Must finish 

Love. 



To his Wife. 

Good Friday. 

I am very proud of the fact that I have managed 
to write five letters in the last seven days. Con- 
ditions are rather against letter writing at the 
best out here. Any way you won't get one now 
for three or four days, as we are off on a journey 
somewhere, leaving here tomorrow morning so 
don't worry if you don't hear from me for the 
best part of a week. 

Journeys — our journeys — are always by round 
about routes to keep the main roads clear for the 
movements of motors etc and the main rails clear 
for the hasty movement of troops. We — (moving 
up more or less at our own time to depots) have 
to keep out of the way. It must be one of the 
most responsible tasks in modern war ; keeping 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 127 

roads and rails free from obstruction. The whole 
2nd London Division looks huge as you see it 
scattered over the countryside : one battalion in 
this village, another in that, artillery here, 
engineers there, but it is only one of some thou- 
sands (if the French official report is true, which 
of course it is) other such units all quartered 
in the northern half of France. Imagine all of 
them left to go their own way to their next 
position. Imagine their huge supply trains and 
convoys of sick and wounded, each taking the 
road it thought best ! I've seen the supply 
train for one Brigade (i/3rd of a Division) get off 
its course for ten minutes and the muddle that 
ensued and I'm impressed. Goethe saw the 
German and Exiled-Noble Army in a muddle and 
his description is very striking — it is of an army 
equal to about two divisions, modern, without motors 
or heavy guns. 

I can't keep your letters and I feel there's 
something in one I have left unanswered. Always 
repeat unanswered questions — will you Dear ? 

The coinage hereabouts is amazing, not only 
British and French and Belgian with occasionally 
Swiss and Italian but also Indian quarter annas 
called " sous Indiens," English two shilling pieces 
called " pieces de quarante-huit sous." Halfpence 
are just " sous." When we get into Germany I 



128 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

wonder if we shall drag the curious currency with 
us and mix it in turn with the pfennigs and marks. 
It's quite likely. 

I feel very hopeful about getting things over 
soon now. 

Post 

A lovely long letter from you. Thank you 
Darling. You've no idea how it cheers me. My 
Blessed Vallie — I'm so glad he is being good. 

The parcel — fortunately — did not arrive with 
the letter. That saves me the trouble of carrying 
three tins of milk etc. on the journey tomorrow. 
I suppose it will greet me on arrival at our 
destination. Mater's friend sent me a whole 
pound of John Cotton ! I shall be equipped with 
that and Lai's for a couple of months at least. I 
smoke more on some jobs than others. Clean- 
ing out ancient stables is most expensive in 
tobacco. 

The 6th Field Ambulance is the Ambulance 
of the 6th Brigade. Our Battalions are the 
2oth to 24th. I don't know if the censor will 
pass this. Still as you ask I will answer and leave 
it to him. 

I simply must stop. 

Heaps of love to you and all and to my Vallie— 
Bless him. 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 129 

France, April loth, igiS' 

Dearest, 

Absolutely my first opportunity to write 
since we left here (a draft of 20 of us) five days 
ago. We returned here — the Monastery — last 
night and I found your parcel (thanks very much) 
3^our long letter (thanks even more — I loved it) 
another from >\Iater and one from Mr. Cham.berlain 
(of the tobacco) waiting for me. 

I have had an amazing Easter : attached to a 
regular Field Ambulance (one of the old ones), 
half the time at the Main Station (which is also a 
French Hospital), the other half at the advance 
dressing station, only a few hundred yards behind 
the trenches. I have been in our first line 
trenches and seen German dead lying out between 
our barbed wire and theirs : poor heaps of wet 
clothes and mud. They had been there some time 
in a place equally inaccessible to either side. 

The advanced dressing station was run by men 
who have been out here since the beginning ; 
reinforced by drafts of ex-R.A.M.C. men from 
the Reserve. I was taken for a personally con- 
ducted tour of the dug-outs and trenches by a 
ginger moustached old sergeant with a D.C.M. 
who maintains in a strong Aberdonian accent 
that shrapnel is absolutely harmless. I have since 

I 



130 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

seen three men newly struck by shrapnel and I 
disagree with him. On the other hand I have 
watched shrapnel bursting for a whole afternoon 
over the com-trcnches and fields, across which 
reliefs were passing to and from the trenches — 
and going up later with stretchers I have heard 
No Casualties, and I can't help saying that 
shrapnel must be a very expensive way to take 
life. A shell burst in the back of the house 
wherein the advanced Dressing Station is, a few 
days before we arrived there. It smashed into 
the kitchen and exploded forward into the front 
room — the Officers' Mess. The kitchen happened 
to be empty and the officers were, by chance 
attending to a case in another room at the time. 
That sort of thing happens every day. 

Of course I saw and experienced nothing very 
hot in the way of either rifle or shell fire — ^just the 
trench warfare of everyday of the month. We 
should have been in the commodious cellar and 
" funk holes " of the station if the shelling had 
developed into a serious bombardment. The men 
all slept in the cellar. We (five) elected to sleep 
above ground in a room next to the sergeants. 
Somehow their proximity made us feel that the 
danger wasn't so very great. The room was in 
the front of the house — the side remote from the 
German lines. 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 131 

Shell fire is spectacular. Rifle fire is curious — 
eerie. The Germans " fire by the map," so our 
boys say. Their bullets have regular highways 
and byeways with a particularly pitted wall or 
a house comer converting most of them into blind 
alleys at last. I have stood with experienced old 
sergeants and men in the shelter of a wall and 
watched bullet after bullet hit the same brick in 
another wall a few yards away. 

Firing by the map makes it equally possible 
to dodge by the map. The captain in charge 
took our lieutenant and myself across country 
as exposed as Widbrook Common, with bullets 
twinging like plucked telegraph wires across it. 
He seemed quite unconcerned and — between 
ducks — ^we emulated his manner. He picked a 
zig zag course avoiding the road altogether (a 
course I have since seen others pick across the 
same country) until — just where the fire seemed a 
shade too hot — he entered the communicating 
trench. 

I have seen the Village of . I wish I could 

give you the name. I expected to find it a row 
of ruins flanking deserted lanes and roads. 

/ could not always distinguish roads from kitchens; 
estaminets from farm yards ; interiors from ex- 
teriors. Not only was grass growing in the streets 
but in the paved floors of the houses, and where 



132 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

walls have been thrown down, their materials 
have been used to build other walls — barricades — 
across roads — rooms — yards and gardens — in one 
case across the railway, which occurred most 
surprisingly in what I thought was a large farm 
kitchen or outhouse, appearing under one such 
new battered-to-old-seeming wall and disappear- 
ing under another. Not only all this, but trenches 
and barbed wire entanglements which one 
associates unconsciously with exterior aspects, 
traverse street and roofless room and yard alike, 
joining cellar with cellar, until the whole village 
beyond the church is both maze and ruin. 

The Church is the most amazing sight of all. 
Nothing remains of it but the high east end wall, 
the rest being sheared off at the window sills. 
This one huge pyramidal wall still stands clear 
white, supporting a super-life-size Crucifix. The 
village is absolutely deserted. Neither natives 
nor our men attempt to live there. One or two 
cellars are used as dugouts. The firing line runs a 
few yards outside it, and stray bullets tick little 
bits off it all day, while occasionally — as an 
observation post is suspected in this or that 
remaining wall — the Germans drop a few shells. 
My impression is that further bombardment can 
only simplify it. The present village with its 
constant imitations of a house turned inside out 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 133 

and exhibitions of railways and flowerbeds 
apparently on the wrong sides of the front doors 
is the last word. 
I really must stop. Heaps of love. 

France, April I5tb, 191 5. 

Dearest. 

The parcel arrived quite safe. The Walker's 
is exactly what I want — both for use and show. 
The Ideal is ideal. For goodness sake, keep me 
supplied with milk above everything. It makes 
the indifferent army tea quite palatable, and is 
moreover easily converted into fried bread or an 
early cup or an after dinner cup of really good 
cook's tea. A man with a tin of milk can go 
where he pleases and enjoy the best of everything. 
Men, to whom a tip of cash would be an insult 
(there are more than you think of such out here), 
can be bought body and soul for four drops from 
the can. The Germans with their characteristic 
lack of insight have not realized this. For 
Heaven's sake keep it dark ! 

This should be a letter to Mater but I am not 
quite sure where she is. You will let her see it 
as soon as possible, won't you dear ? The poor 
Censor has groaned and the Lord has heard him 
and we are now limited to 07ie letter a day. I am 
glad. I used to lie awake pitying the poor man 



134 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

who had to wade through all our effusions. Some 
of the fellows used to write half a dozen in a day — 
at the expense of uncleaned boots, unwashed 
teeth, in fact all the important private duties of a 
soldier on A.S. undone. You've no idea the time 
these things take under the conditions we have 
to do them under. The poor pumps of this 
neighbourhood are quite inadequate to our 
requirements and we wash, coram populo, in the 
neighbouring brooks. 

You ask what is the most striking feature of the 
country under war. It is easy to answer : its 
peacefulness. Where I am sitting now is not 
twenty miles from the firing line. A more 
peaceful Sunday morning scene can hardly be 
imagined. I am on a wall between a garden and a 
farmyard. The garden, it is true, is a bit gone 
to pieces and our incinerator and rubbish pit 
sear it slightly — but we had these things in peace- 
ful England ; and they do not suggest the prox- 
imity of war. Flowers are growing this spring 
like every other, both in the garden and in the 
fields away to my left. Larks and other birds 
are singing. That is what you've got to remember 
if you want to visualize the front as it is. One 
takes for granted trenches, horse lines, ruined 
villages, great and small guns, khaki and grey 
dead, barbed wire, smoke and noise along the 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 135 

black wriggley line that the " Daily Mail " and Co. 
trace across their maps to show where our front is. 
You must convince yourself that there are sky- 
larks above the sand dunes near Ostend, just as 
there used to be, pigeons in ruined Louvain, 
early butterflies in the air among the bullets, 
crows and rooks around Ypres, and Rheims, 
daisies growing among the Jack Johnson holes 
at Neuve Chapelle, violets in the ruins of Givenchy, 
primroses at La Bassee and so on. Nature carries 
on business as usual. I am just beginning to 
realise it on the little I've seen, and what is true 
here must be true all along the line. 

I had a nasty spell last Monday, stood by at a 
long (hour and a half) operation on the skull and 
brain — trephining it is called. I nearly fainted 
twice but pulled myself together and went back as 
soon as I had got a breath of fresh air and a drink 
of water outside the room. The blood did not affect 
me at all. The infernal snoring and groaning of 
the poor devil under the anaesthetic seemed to 
hypnotise me. Moreover the room was very hot 
and I was holding a bowl of Methylated spirit — the 
smell from which is no help to a faint-feeling man. 

It was touch and go with the man. A piece 
of shell and some fragments of hat had pene- 
trated the skull. After the operation hope was 
expressed that he would be only paralysed. The 



136 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

next morning he was reading " Punch " ! I felt 
better than I've felt for years when I saw him 
holding the paper in both hands. 

The surgeons and doctors here are first class 
and, outside rush times when the cases come in in 
dozens, a man stands as good a chance here as he 
would in England. It's the minor cases in their 
earlier stages that don't stand so good a chance 
of quick recovery. Boils, sore throats, tonsilitis 
and CO. do not receive the careful treatment we 
gave them at Hatfield. 

I have only heard of two cases of cerebro spinal, 
none of typhoid. Disease seems to be well in 
hand. It is early to crow, though. The men 
everywhere make a hobby of getting clean even if 
they cannot keep so. 

Your second parcel ! Oh yum yum, Warren's 
Chocolate is it, why did I never taste it before ? 
The cake too ! I wish postage were lower, I'd 
ask for more. 

Love to both your houses. 

To Ms Son. 

France, April 17th, 1915. 

Dearest Little Boy. 

How are you ? Did you get my last letter ? 
Mummy wo7it answer about it. She tells me that 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 137 

you are behaving beautifully. I am so glad to 
hear it. I've got your photo in the pretty frame 
with Mummy's tucked in behind you and every 
morning I say " Good morning Vallie " to it and 
every night I say " Good night." You look so 
jolly you quite cheer me up— but oh ! I do so 
want to see you your real self, my baby. 

When the War's over and I come home, 
Vallie, we'll have such a time. We'll get up 
early and get the breakfast all on our own and go 
for walks, and I'll take you to the theatre. I 
hope there'll be some fairies like the gold ones- 
do you remember ? 

The weather is getting hotter here. It hasn't 
rained today. Last night your Doody went for 
such a funny ride on an army waggon to a town 
a few miles away to fetch two motor bikes. It 
was very dark and all the people had gone to bed. 
Nobody was out except just us and our horses 
and a big railway that never goes to sleep but 
keeps on chu-chuing all night with supplies and 
troops, and sometimes a hospital train, taking 
away wounded from the front, where our men are 
biffing into the Germans and hoping — like me — 
to get it all over and get home to their little 
boys. 

Doody. 



138 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

To his Wife. 

France, April igth, 191 5. 

Don't you worry about bullets, dear. My 
visits to the danger zone look like being few and 
far between and only at such moments as the 
danger is at a minimum. We don't take part in 
charges and countercharges in the R.A.M.C. and 
it is in these real operations that the casualties 
occur. 

Oh my dear, I do wish you could have heard and 
seen the first evening I spent in the (more or less) 
sergeants' mess at that Advanced Dressing Station! 
There were only two sergeants in it, but the old 
nobility of the little party had acquired the habit 
of taking their evening tot of rum with them 
round a stove in the " dispensary " ; one of the 
uninjured front rooms of the house, uninjured 
only comparatively you understand. There were 
no windows of course, and the ceiling had fallen 
in places on the occasion when a shell had smashed 
up the kitchen and officers' mess — both kitchen 
staff and officers being, by the merest chance, 
out at the time. There was also an improvised 
chimney through the wall, the actual chimney 
being out of action. In spite of this improvisa- 
tion, the smoke from the stove, which they fed 
very generously with wood from a deserted timber 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 139 

yard near by, slowly filled the room and limited 
each sitting of the little parliament to about an 
hour and a half, by the end of which time, the 
strongest having given in, the weaker vessels 
accompanied him to the front door to watch the 
star shells light up the country opposite, and 
recover from their partial asphyxia, 

I sat out two of these sittings. The elder of the 
sergeants lolled at ease in a comfortable chair one 
leg either side of the stove (the stoves hereabouts 
stick well out into the room). He was suffering 
from a carbuncle on his neck and wore a white 
bandage like a stock round his throat, gray shirt 
open at neck ; usual khaki rather dirty ; ragged 
red moustache and hair and a weather beaten 
face surrounded by an Aberdeen accent. That 
is my everlasting impression of him. A queer, 
clean, well bred little man whose lack of moustache 
made him look almost cherubically boyish, leaned 
most of the time over the back of his chair and 
punctuated his remarks, when they waxed a 
shade too preposterous, by offers to re-dress his 
neck or apply a hot fomentation. 

He was a curiously acute young man, this last, 
very blase. Everyone liked him and he seemed to 
like everybody — (I believe in these old parties 
that have been together since the first months 
one should say that the men love each other. You 



140 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

at home still associate love with demonstrative- 
ness, though goodness knows why, and would 
think I mean they go on like Brutus and Co. 
whereas I really mean they feel towards each 
other as members of a family feel towards each 
other). Help ! What a digression. They all 
seemed to like the blase young man, leave it at 
that. I will continue this description in my next. 

To his Mother-in-law. 

April 20th, 1915. 

If you want to hear from me occasionally 
you've got to write to me and keep up your end 
of the correspondence. I can't tell you what 
treasures letters are out here. They cheer one 
for a whole day of depressing work — and this is 
depressing work, you know, quite apart from 
being carried on under all the depressing circum- 
stances of discomfort, homesickness, and exile — 
to say nothing of monotony of food which I feel 
more than I ought to. Our food is quite good, 
but oh it is unpalatable and monotonous ! 

I am rather unlucky this week doing two 
guards in the week. That means two nights up 
without corresponding days in, as compensation. 
I am also pack store keeper — a beastly job which 
I hate. Present state of book shows several shirts 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 141 

lost and many pairs of pants risen from nowhere 
to daunt me. It doesn't look military, does it ? 
F ncy worrying about shirts with guns ever 
booming a few miles away, and hostile aeroplanes 
spying out our drying ground every fine evening. 
Still it's done — even under fire, unless you happen 
to get hit and then all responsibility ceases. 
This is again curious. 



To his Mother. 

April 22nd, 1915. 

My dearest Mater, 

I'm sorry not to have written to you for 
so many days, but I haven't known where to find 
you. You would have had a letter had I known. 

Our section has taken over duties this week. 
Two of the four Corporals have celebrated the 
occasion by " going cooty," otherwise declaring 
possession of one or more lice and being quaran- 
tined in the scaby ward. I started the week 
as corporal in charge of latrines and general 
fatigues — a job I like as I can in it make myself 
mildly objectionable on the subjects of cleanliness 
and sanitation. After two hours of it however I 
was made pack store keeper, vice Corporal Walker 
gone cooty. One hour later the Corporal of the 
guard went ditto, and I am now combining pack 



142 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

stores and guard. It's going to be a beastly tie 
I can tell you. 

Pack store keeper is supposed to take charge of 
all effects of patients admitted to hospital, and 
to see to the washing of whatever needs washing 
among those effects. I wish he had power to 
decide what needs burning. 

Most of our patients are quite unambitious in 
their ailments : the usual boils, scabies, bad heels, 
etc., being nearly half their number. Somehow 
though, these minor ills seem to make men — 
usually clean — careless of the interior of their 
knapsacks and haversacks and the accumulation 
of old socks, bits of bread, letters, buttons and 
fragments of tinned beef at the bottoms thereof 
are very distressing. 

Good news is very sparingly dealt out, isn't it ? 
I suppose we shall sooner or later get through the 
Dardanelles, sweep the Bosches from Belgium, 

recapture " '" (our own particular hobby 

hereabouts is the recapture of " "), and I 

suppose one of these days the steady weakening 
of Germany will make her a little too weak to 
hold off the rest of the world. I wish it would 
hurry up though. I have no hope of seeing any 
of you this summer — unless I come home before 
the war is over — a contingency which, curiously 
enough would not please me— unless it were only 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAIVUTIST 143 

for a few days leave. Of course that I would like 
most awfully. Oh, for a few days every other 
month ! 

Must conclude this letter. It has been written 
in spells of half a dozen lines at a time between 
jobs, 

God bless you all. My love to Dennis— can he 
talk any yet ? —wait a minute. 

Wow ! I was called by an enthusiastic washer- 
man to view the dead lice on a patient's shirt 
after boiling ! Like Queen Victoria " We are 
not amused." Lice, my dear, lice, not fleas or 
bugs. Ugh ! 

By the way, Crawfords do an awfully good box 
of biscuits for sending to the front. It is— I 
regret to say — called " The Hero Box," but other 
people like its contents. Such a box every now 
and then would go very well. The biscuits are 
just the rich and fancy sort we long for. 



To his Wife. 

France, April 22 nd, 191 5. 

Dearest, 

Things very peaceful these last few days. 
Weather charming. We've got the Band out and 
I shall cease writing abruptly at 3 to go and hear 
a few " chunes," with which we are going to rejoice 



144 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

the villagers. Bombardments in the distance 
the last few nights, aeroplanes in plenty — mostly 
our own I regret to say. A German being warmly 
received is a very exciting sight from the point of 
view of those safe on terra firma— exciting but 
hard to follow. The intruder is so easily mistaken 
for those French and British 'planes which go 
up to give chase, and the clouds of shrapnel shell 
smoke in the air drift so quickly down the wind 
together (though some still evenings they hang 
for a bit) that twenty watchers can generally 
evolve a totally different story of the fight. 

We are running a couple of wards and a scaby 
ward but this only keeps one section busy at a 
time, the other two filling in the tedious " standing 
by " time with marches and drills — physical and 
stretcher — and occasional lectures which are 
more like pow-wows, everybody putting in their 
say. Gay and I gave one afternoon's entertain- 
ment, he describing the nursing he had seen 

at when he was there and I the pleasant 

little operation that kept me so happy for a 
couple of hours. 

Send me nothing but food, tobacco and light 
literature — not too much of the two latter. 
Thank your Mother very much for the cuttings. 
I can't find them at the moment, but Wright's 
coal tar soap one cake at a time would be most 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 145 

acceptable, also a little Fel's naptha. Be careful 
to send me no Stores of things such as boxes of 
soap etc. Every blessed thing we possess has to 
be carried with us on our own backs. Some of the 
fellows get supplies of sugar sent them — a mere 
waste of postage — others six pairs of sox ! If 
they are wise they give them away. Food can 
always be eaten if not by me personally by a 
small party convened by me, each member of 
which will assuredly invite me to his party when 
his box arrives — see ? 
The Band ! 

Bless you all ! 

April 24th, 1 91 5. 

My Darling, 

I am having a very lively time combining 
Corp. of Guard with pack store keeper. Have not 
slept or attempted to sleep since yesterday 
morning — five o'clock. I rather enjoy a night on 
Guard. There are two ways to look at it (i) a 
night's sleep spoiled and (ii) an adventure. I 
feel I've said this before — have I ? 

Weather is improving rapidly : days very fine 
and warm — nights cold and frosty. Washing is 
very cold work. Think of me stripped to the 
middle dabbling in a soapy brook before six a.m. 
and shaving in the shelter of a sort of young 
railway arch (it does not support a railway and 

K 



146 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

is merely an architectural feature of our beloved 
home from — very Jar from— home). We turn in 
from sheer lack of light before eight and are most 
of us ready and glad to nip up at reveille — 5.30. 
I know I am often awake long before that, and — 
once awake —a stone floor, even when strewn with 
straws which show which way the wind blows, 
does not encourage late lying. 

I wonder, dear, if you can get me some fizzy 
drink to mix with water — some sort of fruit salts — 
packed in a tin for transit. Bottles weigh so 
much in themselves. They had something of the 
sort at the advance dressing station which was 
very pleasant and — I should say^ — beneficial now 
that summer is acumen in. 

Must finish — earlier post or something. 
Love. 



To his Son. 

April 26th, 1915. 

Tell Vallie : My dear little boy I want to come 
home just as much as you want me to, but I 
can't for a long time yet, not till all the Germans 
have had their heads sat on, and all the Turks 
have had their heads sat on and one or two 
Austrians have had their heads sat on — and that 
will certainly take the whole lovely summer and a 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 147 

bit over — but I think I shall see you again 
about the time when you have to light up 
before tea. 
Send me heaps of messages my sweet. 

Your DooDY. 



To his Wife. 

I suppose you will spend your holidays at 
Maidenhead, dear. It makes me so sad to miss 
a summer with you but it's got to be. I have real 
hopes of getting home in November. If Italy 
does come into it that will hurry things up 
enormously but I'm sure we can win without 
her. You know how enormously I believe in the 
winning spirit — well it's out here in big chunks, 
not only in our boys but in the French. The 
German humour seems to be one of gas mingled 
with amazement. They cannot understand us ; — 
our chaplains going into the Trenches ; our 
advance dressing stations carrying on week after 
week under fire — all the things that we take so 
matter-of-factly seem to puzzle those Germans who 
are flung by circumstances from their regime into 
ours. Above all I believe our N.C.O.'s shock 
them. I heard at first hand of a German some- 
thing-more-than-mere-man who said that the way 
our N.C.O.'s fraternised with the men was 



148 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

swinish ! My informant — a Corporal R.A.M.C. — 
had heard him say it. He merely quoted the 
Bosch without much appreciation of the excellence 
of the humour, and I am convinced he was not 
inventing it. 

I have been faring extremely well lately, Roffe's 
people and Willet's people having so to speak 
got the range and started an ordered bombard- 
ment. Meat paste and cakes and biscuits and 
tinned fruits arrive by every post for some member 
of my " click " (you know what a " click " is, 
don't you ?) and my " dominant personality " 
{Capell) being particularly assertive about tea 
time I come in for several shares. We are all 
very generous with our hampers — casting bread 
upon the waters we call it. 

One thing I lack is good tobacco. I have 
decided that I do not care for the army issue. I 
live in the hope of some more John Cotton from 
Mr. Chamberlain soon — I gather from his letter 
I shall get it — also I look forward to the Rasp and 
Crown from you — 

By the way, next time you go to 72 fish 
out my clay pipe in case you can find it, and 
shove it in the next ensuing parcel. This is 
not important. 

Letters, Letters, Letters, — thems what are. 
Love 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 149 

April 30th, 1 91 5. 

My Darling, 

Curious situations abound. Behold me 
sitting in Lieut. Dickenson's chair by Lieut. 
Dickenson's fire in the midst of Lieut. Dickenson's 
deserted patience (a game unkno\vn to me : five 
rows and aces out) Lieut. D. having gone forth to 
the Regimental Aid Post on our L. Front to see 
a man afflicted suddenly with peritonitis. We 
are a party forming an Advance Dressing Station 

here at . We have just sent our first case 

(Sergeant shot through chin, tongue and neck — 
quite conscious — hit at three, remained in trench 
till seven, left us 8.15— in Hospital by now) 

into together with a request for two pounds 

of soda for the Bat. M.O. on our R. Front. (Thus 
our Motor Ambulances fetch and carr^-). I am 
waiting up to take the soda when it arrives up 
to the M.O. at his aid post behind the trenches. 
Why soda in the middle of the night ? Gas, my 
dear. Les Bosches are now throwing chunks of 
gas at us. Nasty smelly trick, isn't it ? We 
are replying in our nice clean British way with 
soda— at least so I thought at first, but the truth 
is that partially asphyxiated Tommies thrive on 
Sodium 5^"— not the washing variety. I am 
going to rouse out Fisher (now sleeping peacefully 



150 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

in the billet in spite of a batterj/) to walk up with 
me when the stuff arrives. Lieut. Dickenson 
won't let me go alone. It is a lovely night — 
high moon almost full and a low mist over the 
firing line through which star shells (otherwise 
rockets) twinkle up occasionally. The battery 
near here " bings " out a shell every ten minutes 
or so. It is a noisy brute but some naval guns 
over a mile away are quite deafening even at 
that distance. The expression " tearing the 
atmosphere " really applies to the scream of their 
shells as they pass overhead. They do sound 
like tearing silk heard through a stethoscope. 
The prettiest sound of the night is a machine- 
gun a mile or so to our right firing short tap-tap 
tap tap taps like an over grown woodpecker. 
Understand that these sounds are only occasional 
only the scattered rifle fire being anythmg like 
continuous, and that so scattered that it is a 
mere background. Bing ! from the near battery 
— five minutes elapse — tap tap tap tap, another 
four or five — ^tap tap tap again — a slight in- 
crease in the rifle fire — Bahang Wheeeee I from the 
naval gun — ten minutes perfect calm but for 
rifles very faint and intermittent, tap tap tap — 
tap tap tap. This time from further off : the 
woodpecker's mate. Sh Sh Sh — Sh — Sh a 
German shell coming to look for our Battery. 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 151 

Sh Sh Sh! Whap! Missed it by about half 
a mile — five or six minutes peace. Bing from ours. 
Bing again after a minute and two more bings 
rapid. Peace once more, the rifles a trifle fainter, 

one crack a trifle louder. Tap tap tap tap tap 

That's half an hour not taken down of course 
but tjrpified. I am looking forw^ard to the walk. 

Monday. 

I was interrupted in the above by message that 
more patients were coming down. We had to 
meet them. I got to sleep about one and was up 
again at 5.30 In fact I find I have only had six 
and a half hours of sleep (only four and a half 
without boots on) since 5.30 a.m. the day before 
3'esterday. I am going to have a nap this after- 
noon though. Last night's walk up and back 
was delightful and quite safe. The Aid Posts 
are, of course, not in really dangerous positions. 
Only danger was from sentries. They get hypno- 
tised by the rattle of the rifle fire and being 
awakened drop their bayonets smartly to the 
approaching stomach and sa}' very fiercely but 
surprisingly quietly " 'Alt ! " I always obey. 
" \\'ho are you ? " I generally forget, which 
rouses suspicion. I then remember but stammer 
over it. The stammer produces a sympathy in 
the sentry who says apologetically and bashfully 



152 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

" P — P — pas Sflam-bublance " Then with 

full consciousness of the ridiculousness of the 
remark " All's — well." That being said he calls 
after me in his natural voice suddenly redis- 
covered — " What's the time, chum ? " I am 
sorry for sentries. They get so fearfully smitten 
with self-consciousness. 

I really feel I am some use at last. I am 
N.C.O. in charge of party (seventeen including 
officer and the padre). Lieut. D. is a treat to 
work with. I have no one to share — or double — ■ 
my responsibilities under him and he treats me 
as an intelligent human being not an escaped 
lunatic with criminal tendencies : the way certain 
superior N.C.O. 's seem to think their juniors 
should be treated. This is like being back with 
Barker again. 

Wednesday. 

This letter written in jiblets. Thanks for 
your long one — a treat. Have lost Mater's 
address. Looking fonvard to tobacco. Army 
issue uncertain up here — ^we depend upon our 

Quartermaster at whither the Sixth moved 

the day after I left with my party. They are 
rigging up a hospital there and must be having 
a hell of a time scrubbing floors. 

Aeroplane fight outside — excuse me. 

(Returned). 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 153 

I really hate to miss them especially in a good 
light — most exciting — no result — as usual — 
shrapnel wasted. 

Bless you all — ^buck up tobacco. I am now 
smoking one of Lieut. Dickenson's cigars. 

May 3rd. 

Darling, 

Still at the Advanced Dressing Station, 
expect to be relieved on Sunday, the plan being 
to relieve the personel of Advanced Dressing 
Stations in toto every week or even oftener. 
Since I came here the 6th London Field Ambulance 

have moved into and started work with a 

vengeance, ambulance orderlies coming out daily 
— ^the motor cyclist going and returning, and 
occasional officers and chaplains coming out 
to pay us a visit, all bring stories of how we 
are turning the' Ecole Maternelle into a hospital 
by dint of scrubbing brush and more scrubbing 
brush. 

We, here, have done a fair amount of cleaning 
up too ; the regulars having left this place in a 
state no Territorial Officer could tolerate. 

I am joking of course, but oh we are militar}^ 
v/e Territorials ! We are thorough ! The regulars 
are more than friendly in their attitude towards 
us, but they sometimes smile. 



154 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

There is a gentle soul talking to me continu- 
ously all the time I am writing this — I must 
postpone. 

Next day. 

This is a week of sensations but I really think 
last night will be unbeaten at the end of the war. 
It was by moonlight — almost full — that adds 
something, don't you think ? I had taken 
three men in answer to a message incoherently 
delivered by a man on horseback, accompanied 
by two cyclists — • 

" Man gone mad down at They've got 

'im in a little room — by the railway station." 

We found him not raving but apparently asleep, 
wrapped in blankets quiet as death. A stretcher 
was brought out of the motor and about a dozen 
spare stretcher slings I had thought to bring- 
fortunately — and we debated a moment in the 
moonlight. What a curious group we must have 
been on the deserted station platform, standing 
round him ! Then one of his chums touched him. 
You must imagine more than I can describe in 
this chatter. He raved and bit and beat out 
with fists and feet snarling like a dog — really like 
a dog — ^we got him on to a stretcher, and I lashed 
him on as gently as I could but very firmly. 
Once bending across him I touched his face with 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 155 

my sleeve, he had it in his teeth in a minute — 
and in the midst of it men passed going up to the 
trenches singing. They passed along the road 
not fifty yards away while a dozen of us held him 
down by arms and legs and hair, and muffled 
him in blankets and packed him off with two of 
our men and two of his chums to our snug little 

brand new hospital at . Aschcroft and I 

then set out to walk back to our station. 

It was this walk in the moonlight with the star 
shells on the horizon and the rattling line towards 
which we were walking (the station lies away 
from the firing line from here) that provided the 
sensation. I was naturally impressed. Ash- 
croft is a good obvious fellow. He prattled 
wonderingly of " Wot would make a chap go off 
like that." He supposed he had been " too 
darmg like " and it had " told on him." " These 
Engineers go mad very easy — • " etc. Can't you 
hear him — an old liner steward — a bit of a gardener 
— a silk hat maker last job — age about forty ? 
The sort of man you meet fifty of in an hour. 

We had to pass the wooded garden of the 

Chateau de . In the wood are about two 

score graves, half of our men and half of Indians 
— Khdir's and All's — ^beautifully tended graves 
shining in bead wreaths and pine crosses. Over 
them in the moonlight a nightingale was singing 



156 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

loud and sweet. Its first notes were so close and 
so low that I was startled. 

Eh bien, I can't express it. I feel as if for a week 
past a great super-human artist had been painting 
for me, in all the colours and sounds and feelings 
and scents of creation, a picture of himself. He is 
Reality one moment, Mystery the next. 

Have I mentioned the spy we saw in uniform, 
being marched away under armed guard — 
swaggering but unable to swagger in a straight 
line. I shouldn't be surprised to hear he was no 
spy and got off — but he swaggered and he was 
frightened. That was what I saw. 

I w^ent up to the th H.Q. this afternoon 

and saw two men buried. Their chums were so 
particular to dig them a level grave and a rec- 
tangular grave and parallel graves, and to note 
who was in this grave, who in that, that my mind, 
jumping to questions as always, was aching with 
why's which I wouldn't have asked for the world 
• — almost as if the answer — -you take me — would 
disgrace me for not knowing it aheady — brand me 
as lacking some decency the grave diggers had. 

Oh Lord the mystery of men's feelings. 

May 6tli, 1915. 
I want you to send me at once Bell's Standard 
Elocution (Mrs. Carpenter has a copy which I 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 157 

will return if she will lend it). I also want " The 
Revenge " and Henry's speeches — the one about 
England and the one beginning " Upon the King " 
and the Charioteer's speech from Euripides (Gil- 
bert Murray's translation). Oh Lord, what is the 
play ? I suppose I must do without it. Send the 
others at once though. This is really important. 

I am back at our Main Dressing Station (you 
would call it a Hospital but we are modest) in the 
pretty little town of six miles behind the line. 

To his Mother. 

May 7th, 1915. 

Dearest Mater, 

I feel very wicked : not having written to 
you for well over a week — ^but you make allow- 
ances, don't you ? 

Returned from the advanced dressing station 
(and jolly sorry to leave it) yesterday — ^Tuesday, 
and am now at our main dressing station in ■bbb 
(my own blacking not the censor's). I object 
to using dashes, they interfere with the punctu- 
ation ; so I describe this charming little French 
— very French — Cathedral city, six miles behind 
the firing line as bhh 

I was amazed when I got here to see what a 
workman-like place the old 6th had made of these 
blocks of school buildings. Tents and cooking 



158 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

trenches in the three playgrounds, medical wards, 
surgical wards, orderly room, operating theatre 
and " dressing room." I am on duty in this 
" dressing room," and operating theatre (the 
staffs are interchangeable necessarily) from 7 a.m. 
to 7 p.m. with two hours off daily. 

Patients arrive at all hours ; generally in twos 
and threes — frequently in fives and sixes (the 
last invariably at meal times). They are carried 
into the dressing room where boots etc. are re- 
moved (this saves the operating theatre from dirt), 
and then transported to the operating theatre 
where their wounds are inspected and dressed and 
where every man receives an injection of anti- 
tetanus anti-toxin. Septic wounds never go into 
the theatre at all but are dressed in the dressing 
room. Nasty things they are. We evacuate 
our cases pretty fast. The medical wards are 
quite independent of our surgical. B section 
looks after them — they get a lot of work. We 
have a so-called infectious ward but the more 
infectious cases, like measles, diphtheria, etc., 
go to a special hospital by special " yellow " 
ambulances. I fancy our " infectious " ward 
contains nothing more dangerous than scaby 
cases. It didn't a day or so ago anyway. 

My only complaint against present existence 
is the length of time between reveille and break- 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 159 

fast— nominally 5.30 to 8 (that's bad enough) 
but actually 5 until you can get it. Parade for 
duties is now 6 a.m. and to be shaved and cleaned 
up for the day before six demands a five o'clock 
arising from the one blanket and great coat on the 
floor we call bed. Then, though breakfast is 
nominally eight, a certain number of ward 
orderlies etc. have to wait until 8.30 every morn- 
ing. Of course we take this waiting in turns. 

My chief work to-day has been unbooting 
wounded heroes and giving them beef tea. 
Though this afternoon I donned the white gown 
of a grand inquisitor, sublimated my hands and 
assisted with a couple of dressings ; shrapnel 
(beastly stuff) wounds all over the place. 

This letter extends over a day and a half with 
at least a score of interruptions. This is not an 
exaggeration, there is a man reading the Telegraph 
to me — only to me — even now ; he doesn't mind 
my gomg on writing, so I suppose I mustn't mind 
his reading. Oh, for an hour's absolute privacy 
in the twenty-four ! 

May 8th, 1915. 

Dearest, 

You are wrong — you cannot guess from 
my mention of gas where I am. 
We are tremendously busy. Have turned a 



i6o WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

very convenient old block of school buildings 
into bright clean wards and operating and dress- 
ing rooms. A dressing room is to all intents 
and purposes a minor operating room. The more 
it resembles the best operating theatre in London 
the better. All ours here are amazingly light 
and lofty and we have cleaned and whitened 
them, floors walls and ceilings, till I, for one, am 
really proud of us. We have as yet experienced 
no " rush " such as must accompany any big 
attack, our brigade being on one of those sections 
of front that cost a life or two a day and supply 
a couple of dozen real casualties in the twenty-four 
hours at the outside. Of course we have sick as 
well. Health generally excellent in the division, 
it seems. No enteric, typhoid or dip. as far as 
I know. Favourite diseases boils, scabies, im- 
petigo (nasty thing impetigo but quite a trifle 
if taken seriously enough). I think our feeding 
makes for health in the main — though I am 
convinced that if a man ate his full ration every 
day for a week, he would perish miserably. Half 
pound of jam per diem ! Heaven knows how 
much meat ! Do you wonder I asked for a fizzy 
drink ? By the way it is just what I wanted. 

I find I have dissertated. Half way up the 
page before last I should have said that we are 
looking after two brigades, in fact we have had 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST i6i 

the pleasure of being the first of the 3 Field 
Ambulances in the division to do active work, 
one of the others standing in reserve with their 
brigade and another — poor devils — having settled 
down to look after the divisional washing. We 
trembled for a week under the fear that that 
might be our fate. 

I really am awfully bucked with our place 
here. Three blocks of buildings each a quad- 
rangle around a gravel playground shaded by 
trees just breaking into green. Rooms very lofty 
with windows (enormous windows) on two sides. 
Concussion of big guns combined with Fisher's 
efforts as a window cleaner have supplied fresh 
air, as well as light per these windows. The 
No I dressing room in the surgical has lost every 
pane of glass bar two. (Fisher not responsible.) 
In the playgrounds we have erected tents (you 
should have seen me wrestling with a new and 
unshrunken bell tent — to the great amusement 
of the Sergeant Major — in the fading Hght last 
night. The unholy thing seemed to have about a 
dozen flaps too many. 

We, ourselves, are packed into rooms in the 
3rd block ; six feet by two feet of floor per man 
is about our allowance but there is heaps of room 
in the ist and 2nd block where are the wards and 
if ever a rush comes we shall not be unprepared. 

L 



i62 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

After their experiences at the beginning of the 
war that has been the one cry of the Medical 
Corps, Be ready for a rush ! The Regular 
Field Ambulances in this town tell highly coloured 
tales of the hundreds of cases a day some of them 
were faced with. " Evacuate ! Evacuate ! " — 
that of course is the cry. Get 3'our cases on across 
France to the bases — or across the Channel and 
be ready for the next. As soon as a man can be 
moved, out he goes. 

I was "at it " from 6 a.m. till 3.45 yesterday 
and from 5.15 till g.30 in the morning in the 
operating theatre (doing very little but still " at 
it "). In the afternoon moving down to the 
medical, which we took over, exchanging depart- 
ments with B Section. This is supposed to make 
for general efficiency — very likel}'' it does but it 
also makes a lot of work. In the evening we and 
B. were both so horrified at the state the other 
had left their wards in, that we turned to and 
scrubbed the whole place out. C. Section thought 
of it first. So I think we scored. 

As a matter of fact B. are a jolly good section 
(and so are we) but we think we are a shade 
better (and so do they) . 

In fine I am convinced we are as good as any 
regular Amb. in France, barring experience. 
Our very mixedness and number of different 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 163 

employments in civil life making for efficiency 
in the multifarious jobs of a Field Ambulance. 
Plumber, carpenter, clerk, navvy, cook, groom, 
motor driver — ^just as useful as nurse or doctor. 
Love. 

To his Wife. 

May 12th, 1915. 

Dearest, 

I can't write more than a few lines now. 
Have had a " rush " — our little operating tent 
alone had fifty cases, at least, through in a night 
and a day. Most of them shrapnel. Many 
serious. But Oh, my Dear the pluck of them ! 
and the amazing cleanness of their bodies under 
the muddy khaki and sweat and blood drenched 
vests and shirts. Few were of our Division — , 
most regulars. Hard ruddy little Scots. A 
bloodstained kilt, my dear, is a sight to make a 
painter gasp — such colouring ! and in the white 
acetyline light of our tent ! 

I'm dead tired — can't stick to the subject, will 
postpone letter tUl to-morrow. 

The rush has slowed up. It was wonderful 
while it lasted. The roar of the guns in the morn- 
ing warned us what was coming. Nearly all our 
men were sent up to the bearer stations (advance 
dressing station) I was kept here to work in the 



i64 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

operating tent. I was awfully disappointed at 
first but the view we got of the attack from our 
operating table was worth staying here for. 
We had some of the cases under chloroform. 
I'll try to tell you all about it one day — I can't 
now. 

I feel tremendously fit. Started a bad head- 
ache half way through the rush — we had a lull 
at about sun-down and cleaned up ready for the 
next convoy — then I had a splitting headache 
but I curled up for a nap on the floor at eleven 
among the empty anti-toxin bottles and was 
roused an hour later, feeling as fresh as a daisy. 
Worked through from then (about midnight) 
till ten last night when I retired into my comer 
of C. Section billet, failed to get to sleep there 
owing to some returned bearers trying to tell 
me what they had seen, and came forth again to 
the erratic bell tent I put up some days ago. 
There I slept well until six this morning. As I 
said before I am feeling tremendously fit. 

Love to all. 

May 17th, 1915. 

Have been on night duty these last few nights. 
We have cleared out all our wounded from C. 
section block and B. is receiving the stray night 
casualties, until the next rush, so night duty at 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 165 

present entails keeping awake without excite- 
ment or work — a dismal business. Last night 
though the Germans put a dozen shells or so 
across right into the town here, peppering our 
Quartermaster's bed with the second. He had 
left it on hearing the first. Later, shells injured 
a few unfortunate civiHans : women and children 
of course. I believe one woman is dead. Our 
patients in the medical ward slept through it. 
We have about a score in our medical ward and 
the scaby tent, but they supply no entertainment 
to the night duty man. 

Fisher and most of my chums are up at the 
advanced dressing station at present (we take it 
in turns up there), and I am thrown upon the 
older members of the 6th very decent chaps 
indeed. I like most of them. I'm not sure I'm 
not glad to have got away from the Chelsea set 
for a bit (though we expressed great sorrow 
at being separated), if only to improve the ac- 
quaintance of some of these fellows. They are 
curious, hardened, sinners some of them in the 
matter of being in to the exact and stated second — 
taking leave (this when in England) when not 
granted it, etc. — things we, who joined since the 
war, would no more think of doing than of 
assaulting the Sergeant Major (the unthinkablest 
think I can think of), yet withall they are ever so 



i66 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

much more competent than we are and the 
Powers who punish them for their peccadilloes 
don't mix up peccability with incompetence. 

From all this don't deduce that I am meditating 
a few minor sins of my own. I am merely giving 
expression to a humiliating sense that there are 
in the 6th many men much better than I am at 
everything, except conforming to regulations, 
who have been passed over for the stripe that I 
have obtained, chiefly by cleaning my buttons, 
shaving before parade and generally clicking my 
heels about the place, while they stood akimbo 
instead of at attention, and occasionally indulged 
a natural propensity to break irksome regulations. 

To his Mother. 

May 2 1st, 1915. 

Dearest Mater, 

Don't write as if I neglected to write to 
you ! I think I do wonders. If you only knew 
the difficulties in the way of letter writing in this 
outlandish place. Do you realize that except in 
the three-quarter hour off that we have between 
" off duty " seven and being in billets by eight 
we never see chairs or tables — and then only if 
we get first to the crowded caf^s or estaminets 
can we sit on or at them. We billet as a rule 
about forty in a room or attic the size and style 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 167 

of your attic over Hazlemere ! — plus a strong 
floor. At present we are in a schoolroom which 
is mercifully cool. Attics get so appallingly hot 
and stuffy. We sleep on a waterproof sheet on 
the floor (more often than not out here — even in 
attics — the floor being a tiled or stone one) and 
have one blanket each for covering. This we 
eke out with our own clothes. 

We are ha\dng very hot days now and a lot 
of glaring sun which gives me a bit of a headache 
most afternoons. I am thinking of affecting 
smoked glasses. I wonder if they would be 
condemned as unmilitary. There are no heights 
to which the inane vanity of the army cannot 
rise. Fancy these idiotic moustaches that we all 
have to grow " to make us look soldierly." Did 
you ever hear such rot ? There is something of 
the old W^ellington, who stuck up for the white 
(and tight) neck cloths because they gave the 
men such a fresh colour, in the British army of 
to-day. I fancy it will suffer some in this war 
though. 

I have seen a lot more of this town. It is — 

as I have said — nearer the front than " " 

and south thereof, and well within range of the 
enemy (the front of our hospital shows traces of 
recent peppering by the fragments of burst shell), 
and yet the streets are full of people and the coal 



i68 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

mines and works all hard at it. That is the 
strangest thing about these folk. Even up to a 
mile behind the trenches, peasants live on, keeping 
a Httle bit of their garden going and not even 
complaining as they lose this or that shed, horse, 
or crop, by a shell. In some cases they even 
live on in one end of a house after the other end 
has been wrecked ahnost over their heads. Only 
right up in such towns as, you know where, and 
the two similar in a line south of it (which I 
visited at Easter) does one tell that everything 
has been driven out. These towns really are 
deserted and have been so for months, but now 
that we are pushing beyond them steadily I 
expect the more peasant-like of the inhabitants 
will be trickling back, before it is anything like 
safe to do so. 

I am on a rotten dull routinal job now. My 
duty is to collect the men for evacuation to other 
Field Ambs. or back to clearing hospitals into 
little parties, to see that their " tallies " are 
readable (which they never are), that they have 
their kits, etc., and then I have to watch them 
for fear they may get lost before the convoy 
of motor ambulances can gather them up and 
take them to wherever they're bound for. My 
dear mother, they do take some watching. Serious 
cases of course are no trouble. They stay put 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 169 

on their stretchers, but we have scores of minor 
cases : dental cases, cases for the convalescent 
companies, deafs, eyes, boils and skin diseases, 
and they all stray alike. The deafs in particular. 
They drift away, find a retired comer and fall 
asleep. Enter the convoy, loaded — one short. 
Private McGuiness ! (not a fake name) no answer. 
Private McGuiness, as loud as I can shout. No 
answer. PRIVATE McGUINESS ! in chorus 
by Lieut. Dixon half a dozen orderlies and self. 
Result three patients suffering from shock in a 
back ward have fainting fits and the cook misses 
the meat he is chopping and brings his finger 
along for treatment in the operating theatre. 
Dinner is late, the convoy goes without McGuiness 
who wakes four hours later and asks where he 
can have a wash. 

Bye-bye. Cheer up. I shall be home in a year 
or two, if all goes well. 

Love. 

May 23rd, 1915. 
I am up at the advance dressing station again : 
at the moment of writing I am up further at a 
point we call " Welsh Chapel " (every place about 
here has its English name). It is about a mile up 
from our advance dressing station and is used as 
a sort of Guard Room and Quartermaster's 



170 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

Stores for the trenches which are out at the back 
I have been up to my eyes in work (at the main 
dressing station in " ") since Sunday morn- 
ing when the British and French attack began 
(or rather when its fruits in wounded began to 
reach us. The actual attack began on Saturday 
night). Nominally I have been on night duty 
in the operating tent, but naturally with wounded 
and wounded and wounded flowing in neither 
night nor day duty means anything. I had had 
eight hours sleep in three days, when heavy 
fighting out here developed and the message 
came down for more bearers, so out I came with 
a dozen others by horse ambulance (time two 
a.m.) and going on on foot just as day was break- 
ing, found a Regimental M.O. in a room in a gutted 
house with some half dozen wounded and two or 
three dead on the floor about him. His own 
regimental stretcher bearers were carrying and 
carrying the long mile down to a spot where an 
ambulance could meet them, in comparative 
safety. I gave a hand with my party of six 
and between us we carried down two : you have 
no idea of the physical fatigue entailed in carrying 
a twelve stone blesse a thousand odd yards across 
muddy fields. Oh this cruel mud ! Back in 

" " we hate it (the poor fellows come in 

absolutely clayed up), but out here, it is infernal. 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 171 

It clings and sucks at your boots ; weighs you 
down ; chills you and, drying in upper garments, 
makes them chafe. The dead lie in it in queer 
flat — jacent — attitudes. They nearly always look 
flung down rather than fallen, their feet turned 
sideways lie flatter than a living man's could, and 
the thighs splayed out lower the contours of the 
back. An unrelieved level of liquid mud seems 
to be the end of war. 

I have digressed from the history of to-da}-. 
We carried two poor devils down and I got our 
advance dressing station M.O. to allow me to 
take a horse ambulance up — right up to Welsh 
Chapel for others — ^whom we did not wait long for. 
It was a sporting gallop up the torn road, I 
don't know when the last four wheeled vehicle 
had been so far up but the Germans are falling 
back steadily now and unless a shelling of the 
road occurred we were quite safe. 

Oh the din I am writing this in dear ! There 
ought to be thousands of wounded on both sides 
if noise counted for anything, but here I have been 
for over an hour without a call. We are supposed 
to be relieving the regimental stretcher bearers 
until noon so that they can get some rest. They 
have been carrying for about two days with only 
cat naps between jobs. 



172 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

Later. Same place. 

Just off back to the advance dressing station. 
The guns are still making an unearthly din. I 
have counted eleven German dud shells. Tseau — 
000 — 00 — you wait for the bang and nothing 
happens — loud cheers. 

Next day. 
Advance Dressing Station. 

We went on carrying during the afternoon and 
evening of yesterday and late — • 

— come to work it out this is not " next day " 
but day after next — • 

We finished that first day here carrying down 
from a point on our L. called the Keep a point 
very like Welsh Chapel which is on our right. 
Most of our men stuck it till 4 a.m. but I and my 
party, who had had the morning spell, knocked 
off before dawn and went back to the Adv. where 
we climbed into a loft and dropped. We slept 
just as we were — I didn't even take my mac 
cape off — dead beat until I was roused by the 
floor under me throwing me gently into the air, 
a matter of three inches and receiving me again 
in a way that revealed Tuy hip and elbow pro- 
tuberances with rousing painfuhiess. Our biggest 
siege guns about 500 yards away had opened. 
Every shot flung us all up like pins on a banjo. 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 173 

We scrambled down and took refuge on the paved 
floor below and after five minutes of that left the 
falling — ^gently falling — ceiling overhead for the 
open where I for one slept on till seven in spite 
of the imholy din. It was most like a nightmare 
of trombones — a strepitant blare of metalic noise. 
Still — in the open — so weary were we that we 
slept through it after a fashion. It is much worse 
when one is under a ceiling and between shaking 
walls. 

During the day things quietened down — I went 

into " " (same old " ") as orderly with 

horse ambulance and returned with motor and 
the fun started again at sundo-wn as the weather 
improved (it had been dull all day interfering 
with our advance). 

What a night and morning • 

Interrupted and resumed. 



I cannot remember the order of that night — • 
carrying down from the keep — intense weariness, 
accompanied by sickness. I brought up every- 
thmg I hadn't had for supper and chucked bearing 
for a bit I remember. 

Two trips into " " with wounded — a lead 

and opium pill for little Mary — and an adventure 
which I cannot describe for the life of me. The 



174 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

quite middle of it was spent crawling about 
among the beastly dead in a newly captured 
German trench with a very non material minded 
Roman Catholic chaplain who — Oh — 'Tsno use. 
I can't do justice to it or him. I only remember 
that I felt a great affection for that trench when 
once we were in it and tried to crack a joke to 
that effect and the R.C. wanted it explained. 
Oh Lor. Oh lummy ! I also remarked that it 
faced the wrong way — meaning of course for us 
with the Germans over there — but he pointed 
out that it hadn't been built to protect from that 
direction — 

Do you understand all this ? 

Anyway I'm back in " " now and after a 

few hours' rest by order of the S.M. — an order I 
carried out very indifferently owing to a company 
(250 men) visiting our billet during it and chalking 
out places in the adjoining — ^but not partitioned 
off — part of our top floor. I am on for the night 
as pack store keeper. I shall not pack store keep, 
though as now — at midnight comes an order we 
are to evacuate this lovely hospital we have 
made ! Shells have certainly fallen very close 
(the nearest in the guard room fifty yards away) 
and that is the reason given. It's hard luck 
though when we've spent a month perfecting it 
and getting it as clean as a new pin. 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 175 

Friday. 

We have moved across " " to another 

school and spent the day getting tents up rooms 
scrubbed, etc. etc. etc. Patients began to arrive 
at 9 a.m. and all was ready for them. I am 
building an incinerator. 

Later. 

One of our naughty wicked transport men has 
been " crimed " for cheeking a sergeant and I am 
put in charge of him. We didn't happen to have 
a corporal of the guard — or a guard — when he 
was sentenced so one has had to be appointed 
and I'm it. Rotten job. Strong inclination to 
give my prisoner a cigarette, which of course I 
mustn't do. 

Sunday morning. 

I was corporal of the guard for the night, but 
my work was hospital rather than regimental. 
At about midnight we had to turn out of the 
guard tent to make room for a dying man who was 
becoming delirious and could not be kept in the 
ward. He tried to get up half a dozen times 
during the night and early morning and we guards 
supplemented the orderly (nurse you understand) 
in his efforts to keep the poor fellow quiet — ^not a 
difficult job, he was quite sweet and reasonable — 



176 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

only unable to understand why he couldn't get 
up and get some tea going. Between these spells 
he sang softly over and over again " Artie White," 
" Artie White " in an ascending tritone 




over and over again. He is singing it now as I 
write outside his tent in the sunshine. 

Our guns are roaring hke the sea in the distance. 
We are advancing, but oh ! the price ! The 

Germans are shelling " " at long range 

occasionally 

Hullo — here's a new horror ! We are to leave 
here now ! 48 hours work wasted. It is one of 
the anomalies of modem war that an advancing 
front imperils its rear by inducing the retreating 
enemy to concentrate long range guns thereon 
and we are to fall back while our advance dressing 
station very likely presses forward. 

Now for a night of work again loading waggons. 

I haven't had my boots off for eight hours in 
the last seven days. I haven't had one unbroken 
night's sleep in that time. Many naps totalling 
I should say four hours per twenty four have 
been my portion but I have just had some lovely 
stew made from McConachies' Army Ration of 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 177 

meat and vegetables and a cup of tea and I feel 
as fit as a fiddle. 

God bless you darlings. 

The whole front just now is one Hell of mud 
and weariness, such as I never conceived possible, 
and heroic medical officers sorting the dead from 
the living and struggling, struggling, struggling, 
against chaos. 

There isn't a regimental medical officer upon 
this sector who doesn't deserve to live in comfort 
at the country's expense for the rest of his life 
(V.C.'s be damned). 

To his Wife. 

Sunday 27th. 
Adv. Dressing Station. 

I am up here again — came up last night. Yes- 
terday was a day of wearisome waggon loading. 
At eight when I was just about beat and turning 
in the S.M. bagged me to come up here as waggon 
orderly with the horse ambulance. It's about a 
three hour job as a rule ; (up, collect cases, and 
return) and a job I love as the horse amb. is 
" ride driven " from the saddle and the orderly 
occupies the high front seat (like an old-fashioned 
char-a-banc or horse bus) and gets a fine view of 
the country. On a fine evening it is particularly 
enjoyable when the reliefs are moving up and the 

M 



178 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

amunition columns are going and returning, and 
the roads near and distant (you can see a long way 
over this flat country) are all dotted out with men 
and horses and motors : a job I love, but I did 
not welcome it yesterday evening, after a spell 
of thirty-six hours in my boots especially as on 
the ambulance in the evening usually means on 
the ambulance — up and down — all night ; gene- 
rally by one's own suggestion : it seems such a 
pity to turn out some one to take one's place 
in the middle of the night, when one is wide awake. 
On the way up here though a horse cast a shoe 
(the artillery have farriers right up here), the 
wounded were all pressed away in the other 
ambulances and — the supply from the trenches 
ran out ! We were told to wait and, turning in 
on the stretchers of the ambulance with ample 
blankets, slept till eight this morning with only 
one interruption : when a thunderstorm burst 
overhead. That was an exciting five minutes 
as we had tethered the horses to the wheels 
and they and the rain rocked the old bus like a 
ship at sea. There was cannonading (out and 
in) all night, our own batteries being particularly 
strident and the Germans dropping their black 
puddings about the place with pleasant little 
f pomboms " (the first syllable very short please), 
but we slept through it right into the morning. 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 179 

A poor refugee dog from " — — " that is tied to 
a barrel outside our station didn't though. I 
heard his wails through my dreams and dreamt 
of Emma. 

Monday. 

Back in " " 

Also back in premises of our first 
Hospital here. 

This is a lark, Dearest ! I am in command of 
an army of two. We are the representatives of 
the 6th and in lawful possession of our old schools 
that we evacuated last Friday, when those scraps 
of bombardment came over. The 6th hasn't 
left our hospital No. 2 over on the safety side of 
the town yet, though A and C sections have 
packed their waggons and every other Field Amb. 

in " " has cleared out and moved back to 

" — — " and now — far from developing — the 
bombardment looks hke petering out and we are 
longing to get back into these really exceptionally 
suitable premises so — ^with the written authority 
of the (bow low !) the D. A. D.M.S. here am I a 
" Lance Corporal and two men " (vide order) " in 
possession" just like a bailiff. Mayhew and 
Gait on the Scot are my " men " and they've 
both just received enormous parcels. We draw 
rations from the Q.M. each day per one man sent 
as messenger. I fancy we are going to live some. 



i8o WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 



Tuesday. 

We does ! We had lunch in the middle of the 
day (omelettes and coffee sent in. Hang Ex- 
pense !) and improvised a four course dinner in 
the evening : Soup (soup squares), sardines, 
steaks (our ration cooked properly) tinned apricots 
followed by cafe-au-lait (tinned like condensed 
milk — hon) and accompanied by a bottle of vin 
rouge (sixpence and a halfpenny on the bottle). 

This looks like pic-nicing — and it is — ^but I for 
one really needed a rest and a good feed up. I 
have done my share of the last fortnight's rush 
and a Lance Corporal's share is generally a 
biggish one. Three days and three nights at the 
Adv. working like a galley slave, two nights as 
Corp. of the Guard with extras (by the way my 
delirious charge died while I was writing my last 
to you. I helped to lay him out — I wanted to ; 
curious isn't it ?) four nights as night orderly in 
the wards (during two of which I slept, the wards 
being nearly empty) and the rest of the time 
either working in the operating tent, as pack store 
keeper, or loading waggons, unloading them again 
and reloading them encore ad lib. da capo ad naus. 
Also I am awfully glad to get away from the blood 
and bandages and carbolic and perchloride. I 
was really happy during the two rushes and nothing 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST i8i 

knocked me out — though we saw enough in all 
conscience — but these last few days I have been 
sickening of blood and wounds. This rest from 
it will set me up. 

I have sent over to the H.Q. for my things. If 
we stay here a few days in peace I shall get to 
work on the " Dress Coat " again. One of two 
things may happen. The bombardment of the 
town may cease altogether in which case the 6th 
will come back here, or it may grow worse in which 
case we shall be recalled and the 6th will move to 
" " altogether. 



Later. 
We are rather crushed to-day, Darling. 
Casualties — our first. Two killed, one injured 
(slightly), one suffering from shock. All C. 
Section men, but not great friends of mine — 
though I liked them. May hew — who knew the 
two dead very intimately — is fearfully do^vn : 
seems to think he should have been with them. 
Curious how people feel, isn't it ? I feel most 
for their mothers. Chick — the younger of the 
t^^'o — was only nineteen and such a child ; though 
very tall. They were all smashed by a shell. I 
wish to God England would come into this war 
and get it over ! I told you I thought November. 
It won't be November twelvemonth unless England 



i82 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

drops attacking Kitchener, attacking the Daily 
Mail, attacking defenceless Germans in London, 
striking and all the rest of it and devotes all its 
attention to attacking the German Army out 
here. If you at home could only see and hear 
the enormous concentration of force necessary 
to take a mile of German trench ; the terrific 
resistance we have to put up to hold it ; the price 
we have to pay over every little failure — a price 
paid with no purchase to show for it — if you could 
only see and realize these things there 'd be some 
hope of you all bucking in and supplying the little 
extra force — the little added support in resistance 
— that we need to end this murderous, back and 
forth business. Every man not engaged in supply- 
ing food and warmth and order — bare necessities 
— ^to those at home should be directly engaged in 
supptying strength toward the ending of the war. 
If he isn't doing so he is contributing by neglect 
to that killing and maiming of our men out here, 
which he might he preventing. I am not exaggerat- 
ing an iota. This is mere truth which cannot be 
gainsaid. There can be only one reason for not 
serving : selfishness. And selfishness at this 
time is not the commonsense quahty it is in 
ordinary times, since no man is now looking 
after himself or could look after himself entirely. 
He is part of the crowd which those of its 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 183 

complement who are serving are looking after, and 
he can no more look after himself than any one of 
the men out here can look after himself, but each 
can help to look after the crowd and be looked after 
in return. The Devil of it is that so many have 
slipped into the crowd and are being looked after 
in return for nothing. That is the weakness. 

I am not shouting for men only to enlist. Enlist 
if possible — but at least to register at Labour 
Exchanges as willing to do such work as may be 
needed — and to learn to do it : to do the rottenest 
sort of work if necessary so long as it's useful. 
There should be a glut of labour on the market 
now instead of a shortage. 

Wednesday. 
Still here — " resting." It's getting a bit dull. 
Your letter just arrived. So sorry you were so 
long without hearing from me. I do my best. 
You understand surely how we are sometimes 
rushed — sometimes posts cut off — sometimes 
officers too busy to censor all letters, I expect. 

To his Mother-in-law. 

May 28th, 1915, Empty Hospital. 

Dear Gram. 

Thanks very much for your letter. It is 
now nearly three weeks since it reached me but 



i84 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

j'ou will, I am sure, forgive tardiness in replying : 
those three weeks have been so very full of work. 

Of course I have no objection to your teaching 
Vallie a prayer. Why should I have ? Only 
please teach him one thing : that his prayer may 
not be answered and that if it isn't, he must not 
think that God is cruel or unmindful. " Thy will 
be done " is the safety valve in all prayer and a 
believer in God must surely think — if they do not 
say — those words as a part of every prayer. In 
the case of a child I think they should be said. 

I would be grateful if you would not muddle his 
little brain with trinitarian dogma. I have 
nothing against the trinity idea except that it is 
puzzling and quite unnecessary. It's alright for 
an artist or a mystic — it can have a symbolic 
meaning which is most grateful but I think it 
should not be taught. One can be a lover of 
God without going into the matters of the defini- 
tion of Christ ; and all such difficulties. If 
Vallie grows up a poet or a mystic, he will fight 
into those problems for himself. I would rather 
he had the chance to do so unguided. If he is 
going to grow up an engineer or a farmer, he will 
be no poorer for never having been troubled with 
them. 

If I don't come home you may — I mean : Please 
will you — teach him the Sermon on the Mount 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 185 

and " The Lord is my Shepherd "etc., but I have 
ahvays looked forw^ard to teaching him these my- 
self and still hope to do so — this coming winter too. 
I do hope you are not being too greatly dis- 
tressed by these confounded newspapers. To 
read some of them you might think that in the 
middle of an important action, the gunners 
suddenly put their hand in their pockets and 

found they had run out of shells and " there 

falls a sudden silence in the rear." This war is 
quite horrible enough — I dare say to your imagina- 
tion it is quite as ghastly as it is to our ej^es and 
ears and noses — quite horrible enough without the 
papers harrowing the feelings of you poor dears at 
home by suggesting that this or that could have 
been prevented. It is the most appalling thought 
possible, isn't it ? It's all very well for them to be 
wise after this or that mistake, but I do not 
believe that any combination of human minds 
could have foreseen more than has been foreseen 
by the authorities. I met a sniper the other day 
who had had to desist owing to something going 
wrong with his loophole. " If I'd only had a bit 
of forked stick " he kept on saying " I could have 
done in a hundred of 'em." I suppose it might be 
called lack of foresight that he had not supplied 
himself with a bit of forked stick before going in — 
still . 



i86 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

Au revoir (soon I hope — though with no ground). 
We — our Ambulance — has turned out such a 
success that we get more than our own Brigade's 

work to do. We have had to lend the s a 

hand when they mislaid their Field Amb., and 
though originally we M^ere under orders to send on 
very serious cases demanding operation to No — 
and officers to No — we have lately been doing 
all the work that came in ourselves " Officers," 
"Very Serious's/' " Moribunds." "Sitting," 
" Medical " " Allymangs " " Scabies," " Shocks," 
every kind of case except infectious : measles 
and the like — very little about — they go to a 
special hosp. by special motors never used for 
anything else. 



To his Wife. 

May 29th. 

I should like some more tobacco. 

You need never worry at not hearing from me 
Dear, you would be immediately informed if the 
slightest accident happened to me. Also I am 
not one of the careless ones, and take no 
chances. 

I am longing to see my little boy in his sailor 
suit. 

Bless him and you. 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 187 

To his Mother, 

ist June. 1915. 

Dearest Mater, 

Things have quieted down now — only 
aeroplanes and anti-aircraft guns with occasional, 
very occasional, five minutes of shelling disturb 
the town. After the inferno which raged " out 
there " for the last two weeks the result of which 
you have seen by the papers, (it looks little 
enough but has cost both sides the most enormous 
efforts and really signifies much), the comparative 
calm is almost uncanny. Men of this or that 
battalion are wandering aimlessly about the 
streets, getting arrears of food into them, and 
losing slowly the strained and distrait manner 
that their experiences have engendered. Our 
Territorial Batts. have done M^onders. Every 
one is marvelling at them. The general has told 
them that they will in future be called " veteran 
fighters." From what I've seen I really believe 
that the Londoners are equal, man for man, to 
any soldiers in Europe, in everything except 
subordination. There are such stories going as it 
would do you good to hear. — Example : of little 
so and so — kid of nineteen {he says : not more than 
seventeen really) — nipper " so high " — marching in 
a Prussian Guardsman with whiskers like old 



i88 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

Tirpitz — down — oh, down to (indication of beard 
reaching to abdomen) fetching him out of a dug 
out — (gesture suggesting pulHng a surly dog out 
of a barrel) and jabbing him along — (illustration 
first of the nipper with rifle and bayonet, then of 
the Prussian who was about six feet two I under- 
stand, waddling along, head down and hands up). 
There's no getting away from it we are a success. 
Fighters, medicals, and all. But oh, my dear, 
the men who have been buried out here ! Such 
splendid chaps. Why do the best ones all get 
done in ? I met a — th man a friend, after their 
charge — two days after it — I had been hearing of 
this man and that one gone of those I had known 
best in the batt. and I believe I shook hands with 
him for five minutes — which surprised nobody. 
The little ginger headed chap whose hand gave 
me so much trouble at Hatfield was first to go in 
the charge of that batt. A bomb finished him. 
Other old patients and friends went — or came 
back here with greater or lesser wounds. One 
with his breath whistling in and out of a hole 
between his shoulders — I saw him out delirious 
and comfortable with plenty of morphia in him. 
I can stick anything but depressed fracture of the 
skull. A man died in one of the wards here of 
that, — Galton watching him. He had the ward 
to himself (they make such a noise) and a mouse 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 189 

came out and ran back and forth under the 
stretcher he was tied to. Galton called me to 
watch ; he was quite fascinated. These things 
almost please one by their very perfection of 
eeriness and horror. Do you understand ? They 
are like the works of some gigantic supernatural 
artist in the grotesque and horrible. I shall 
never fear the picturesque in stage grouping again. 
Never have I seen such perfect grouping as when, 
after a shell had fallen round the comer from here 
a fortnight ago, three of us rushed round and the 
light of an electric torch lit up a little interior 
ten feet square, with one man sitting against the 
far wall, another lying across his feet and a dog 
prone in the foreground, all dead and covered 
evenly with the dust of powdered plaster and 
masonry brought down by the explosion ! They 
might have been grouped so for forty years — 
not a particle of dust hung in the air, the white 
light showed them, pale whitey brown, like a 
terra-cotta group. That they were dead seemed 
right and proper — but that they had ever been 
alive — beyond all credence. The fact that I had 
seen them " mount guard " was in another depart- 
ment of experience altogether and never occurred 
to me till some days after. 

Of all the curious things of war the most curious 
is the way my old problems of perception, 



190 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

experience, and apprehension ; their relation 
to reahty — the way those problems are being 
lit up. We have some really brilliant men among 
our officers. One in particular who — ^not deeming 
himself a surgeon (pure swank — he was going to 
perform a trephinning without turning a hair — 
but such swank is most sympathique, isn't it ?) 
generally acts as anaesthetist, is often most 
illuminating with a word here or there just when 
one is wondering — as one can in the middle of 
holding down a half-anaesthized and very energetic 
Scot or Guardsman — just what feeling is and 
what consciousness ; how there can be degrees 
down from our normal to zero and if there can be 
degrees up as well — you follow ? — to some zenith 
of apprehensiveness to existence. Of course the 
normal capacity for perception fluctuates a little. 
Has it any limits up as it obviously has down ? — 
at ^^wconsciousness ? The devil of it is that an 
imaginative projection can be so easily mistaken 
for a conception the result of higher sensitiveness 
— perceptiveness. So many of the mystics seem 
to me to have been merely people gifted with ima- 
ginations. The Bronte sister perhaps — what was 
her name ? — and Wordsworth and A. E. and Evelyn 
Underbill genuine exceptions, the rest — most of 
them — imaginative. "Thrysus bearers," casting 
their imaginings in the form of active experience. 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 191 

We are still — three of us — alone in the old 
hospital. Since things have quieted do\\Ti, men 
off duty have taken to dropping in for a laugh ! 
We are the star j oke of the to^\^l. It is a ridiculous 
situation, isn't it ?— I never thought when I 
joined that I should ever put in a week as care- 
taker. If Messieurs les Bosches would only either 
get the range and dent these buildings slightly 
or give up trying altogether so that the ambulance 
would either give up the idea of returning or com.e 
back and done with it. I want some exercise. 

By the way, let me assure you of one thing. 
I am taking the greatest care of myself — ^no 
collecting souvenirs under fire for me. I am not 
particularly nervous — in fact I have not yet been 
badly frightened, but I have been struck cautious 
— if you know what I mean — every timie I have 
been anywhere where caution was necessar}-. I do 
not even share the rather popular (with the infants) 
desire for a slight wound "just enough to get 
you a fortnight at home." I want to stick the 
war out usefully and unostentatiously — but, oh, 
I hope it'll end this year. It will — or not — just 
according to the energy concentrated by you 
people at home on the one job of piling up shells, 
guns, clothes, food, men, bombs, motors, horses, 
and delivering them to the right spot at the right 
moment. Oh, — and you can devote some energy 



192 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

too to inventing a gas ten times as beastly as the 
German product and a means of projecting it four 
times as far. 
Au revoir. 

3rd June, 1915. 

Dearest Mater, 

I knew 3'ou'd hear summat of that Zep. raid. 
Yes, there isn't much " ping " to a bomb explosion, 
is there ? Unless it's quite close to you and then 
it seems to hit you gently all over at once with a 
wad of cotton wool and you are surprised after- 
wards to find your ears singing : at least that's 
how shells sound. For real tremendous per- 
cussive, metalic bangs give me our naval guns. 
My first experience : — It was at " i," the 
ruined townlet we went to first (about five miles 
south of that we know so well which — though 
quite thoroughly ruined — has not suffered as 
" I," has). We were introduced to German 
shrapnel, falling about four to six hundred yards 
away, as soon as we arrived, and remarked how 
little noise the actual explosion made — the scream 
of the shell beforehand being really much more 
poignant and nerve ratling — (the German gun 
that despatched them being, you understand, 
anything about 5000 to 10,000 yards off and 
practically inaudible, above the general rumble). 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 193 

Perhaps twenty had screamed up and pom bomped 
themselves each into a growing puff of smoke 
when CRASH ! Sousa, thirty thousand extra 
trombones each with a cannon cracker inside, 
thunder, echoes and Hghtning. We all shrugged 
(this is exactly what we did) till our shoulder 
widths were reduced by about fifty per cent, and 
our necks were submerged to the ears and our 
elbows grated against our ribs. Then, when we 
were expanded again, the Sergt. of Regulars, who 
was acting as our guide told us it was only one of 
our nine-point-two's a matter of half a mile 
away ! Phew ! 

The last time I went up to the line (a week ago 
now) we had, Lord knows how many, of all sizes 
from mountain guns and 18 pounders, up to the 
9-2S all at it constantly and villainously and really 
half of us came back with a mild stammer or 
twitch in the middle of every other word. You 
understand that our dressing station (advanced) 
and the regimental aid posts are much nearer 
to the big guns than the trenches are. They 
rarely place a battery within a thousand yards 
of the trenches and some are three times that 
distance behind them. The zone is enormous. 
Take this town which is inhabited and also full of 
troops. It is about five miles west of "2." 
Two or three miles east of which the new trenches 

N 



194 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

now lie. Nobody here seems to know exactly 
where we have pushed to on the general front. 
Only the " Umpth " know that they took so 
many lines. The " Oothies " that they took all 
there were and had to lie on their tummies in the 
open (while the Germans did the same 500 yards 
off) and dig themselves in under fire. And some 
other Batts. that they only took one line because 
some other unprintable barstards didn't support 
them or got in their way or something disgraceful 
and cowardly and unmatey. (It's a treat to hear 
these Batts. curse each other. I believe many a 
trench has been held because to give it up would 
expose the holding battalion to recriminations 
from their brothers in support or on the L. or R. 
who would certainly come up and retake it " just 
for the sake of laughing at us," said one Corporal 
to me of the co. which had retaken the trench 
his CO. had at last retired from.) 

Well — this town is, as I say, from five to seven 
miles behind the firing line, yet shells fall here 
daily. The road all the way up to the trenches 
is under fire here and there (and you never quite 
know where when you set out) at nearly any given 
moment. "2 " (from which our last advance 
was pushed up) with the line two miles away is 
supplying more casualties than it and with the 
trenches passing its back door — more, I daresay, 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 195 

than the trenches themselves just now. It is 
the name spot for that neighbourhood but really 
it is nothing more now. Nothing to do there but 
duck and run. Nothing to eat but bully and 
biscuit. I have only been east of it a few times 
but I felt safer out in the open there than in the 
remains of the to\\'n. Not that I felt what you 
might call safe even there. 



To his Son. 

June 3rd, 1915. 

My dear Sweet little Man. 

Thank you ever so much for the picture 
and the thingumy you put into the parcel for me. 
I was very very glad to get them. Mummy tells 
me you wanted to send Cocky Oily Bird but she 
thought better not. I'm rather sorry because I'd 
have Hked Cock Oily Bird to come out here very 
much indeed. Next time Mummy's sending a 
parcel you ask her to find room for him. You 
can give him a kiss to bring out to me. 

How is the office getting on ? If the office boys 
all leave to go to the front why don't yoi. engage 
an office-girl ? Of course they can't play cricket 
so well as office boys and very few of them can 
whi-^tle properly, but you can't have everything 
in war time. 



196 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

I'm told I'm to have a photo of you in your new 
sailor suit. I hope it will be just exactly like you. 
I want to see what my Vallie looks like after all 
these months — nearl}/ three my darling — since I 
saw him last. But oh, my dear little man, it's 
going to be a lot more than three months more 
before I see you again ! These Germans won't be 
pushed ! We shove and we shove and they only 
go such a very little way back after we've been 
shoving for weeks. Still they always do go a 
little wa3^ And many littles make a lot in the 
end — when it comes. 

Will you please dictate a letter to Mummy for 
me. Mummy will tell j^ou how it's done : you 
say " Dear Doody " and she writes it down and 
then you go on as if you were talking to me and 
she writes all that down, and then when you've 
said all you can {lots) you kiss the end of the 
letter and mark the spot with a cross. 
Bless 3'ou my boy 

Your 

Loving 

Doody 

His kiss X. 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 197 

To his Wife. 

June 4th, 1915, 

Well my dear, we've been married live years 
to-day ; and what's your opinion of married life ? 
Fairly stirring it's been ; hasn't it ? You ill 
twice, me ill once, Vallie ill once (you see I am 
not counting mumpses). Us burnt out once ; 
Shaftesbury Avenue, Glasgow (assorted), Victoria 
Square, St. John's Wood— plenty of variety in 
our settings — and now you grubbing along on 
short rations and me — what the devil am I 
doing ? At the moment I am Caretaker-Com- 
mandant (rank my own invention) of the Ecoles 

M feeding well, sleeping well and getting 

absolutely no exercise or excitement. Parts of 
the buildings are at present occupied by a company 

of the 's out of the trenches for a few days 

rest. They are a tough lot of old regulars, most 
of them west countr}^ or Welsh, who have been 
out here since October ; high spirited and rowdy 
but (like all the British out here) models of 
behaviour where women are concerned (by which 
I do not mean saints) and adored to the verge 
of being turned into hobnailed Juggernauts by 
all the children they come across. Our men also 
make a great impression here by their genuine affec- 
tion for dogs. The poor beasts are abominably 
treated by the lower classes and ignored by the 



198 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

upper of this town and district. As a matter 
of fact they are rather beastly to their children, 

too ; and as for horses 

Curiously enough the favourite accusation 
against them at home — that of " doing the 
troops down " — is not true. Certain things are 
villainously expensive : — razor blades ; tobacco ; 
brushes, and other manufactured trifles, but the 
people themselves — especially in the villages — 
will frequently refuse all payment for coffee, 
bread and butter or even — though less frequently 
■ — eggs. I never go up to the A.D.S. now without 
calling on the one peasant family still living in 
that stirring neighbourhood and taking coffee 
(au lait) and galette (quite different to Galette 
Bernevalaise) with them for which they religiously 
refuse all payment. I tried to tip the family 
brat a half franc the last time up. It was rescued 
and returned to me with insult. These people 
have been all but ruined : their larger fields all 
shell holes ; half their out buildings and windows 
demolished by the reverberations of our artillery 
and carelessness of troops billeted therein (chiefly 
the former I am glad to say) and the railways and 
canals they depend upon torn up or full of strange 
craft and running into the enemy lines. They 
are far from hopeless, though. The enemy will 
have to pay, they say. 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 199 

I made a foolish mistake early in this letter : — 
" no excitement." I had a little yesterday — 
nothing much but a little. Coming back from 
my daily visit to H.Q. whizz bang whizz bang 
whizz bang — bang — the fourth so close on the 
heels of the third that the whizz was lost (that's 
when I take a dislike to them : no fair warning) 
and a square about as far ahead of Mayhew and 
myself as from 85 Talbot Road to the letter box 
was neatly dented in each corner. We retired 
round a house (the range was along the road) 
until the " bombardment " seemed over, then 
hurried up. First sight ; a tall sergeant taking 
do^\^l his trousers coram populo to inspect the 
damage to his posterior aspect — not great. We 
advised him where our hospital (and a drink) were 
waiting for such as he, and proceeded with the 
usual job of locating the old woman and stopping 
the bleeding until an ambulance arrived (Mayhew 
went for it at once). 

She was in the back room of the house before 
which the shell had fallen, her feet on a chair and 
her poor loose old stockings dripping nice bright 
arterial blood on to the stone floor. An unusual 
complication, son mart was sitting on the stairs 
(which ^^•ere in the room) his eyes rolled up — 
curious pale grey eyes — suffering from our old 
friend " shock " and also bleeding like a stuck pig. 



200 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

A gas pipe had been severed and the neighbour- 
hood was discussing " le gaz " ; of course missing 
the obvious reason for the smell that pervaded it. 
A regular, an officer and myself got ourselves nice 
and bloody and dabbed the old lady and son mari 
(whom she kept discussing) with water : he came 
unshocked suddenly and took to weeping, then 
Mayhew and the ambulance returned and we 
bandy-chaired them out to stretchers and slid 
them in and cursed the assembling crowd and 
went home to tea. 

Nice story isn't it ? With variations any 
day's story of this pleasant sunny and prosperous 
little city. Sometimes the old woman is killed 
outright ; sometimes she has a leg blown off and 
dies on the way to, or after reaching, hospital ; 
sometimes she is accompanied thither by a smashed 
child or two — more rarely by a man — more rarely 
still by a soldier. Occasionally she mingles her 
pint or two of blood with the more generous supply 
tapped from a horse. Very occasionally you find 
her searching herself rapidly and reporting with 
natural surprise — in view of the fact that she 
certainly is an old woman — that she hasn't been 
touched. Sometimes this that or the other is 
her share but always she has one. She is the old 
woman of the day to be added to the list of all 
the old women of last week and the week before. 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 201 

The joke of it all is that old women have no 
Military significance. 

Love to you all. 

Don't be horrified at me— I must sarcast a 
little when I feel that way. 

June 9th, 1915. 

Dearest 

We are back in the fold having left our 
caretaker's job (with the usual mihtary sudden- 
ness) yesterday afternoon. It wasn't bad fun 
for the first few days but deadly for the greater 
part of the time. Sorry to hear you have had 
flu. Curiously ; I was verging on a touch a few 
days ago, usual headache backache etc. but no, 
temperature so I didn't report sick. 

There are the usual crops of rumours here about 
our next move. 

Tuesday. 

And now here I am in " " a few miles 

from the last place. We have all moved here- 
abouts and after going to sleep in various comers 
I have reported sick. Sprung a temperature of 
100-3 3-i^d ^^ ^^w learning to appreciate a Field 
Amb. from a new point of view. It's nothing 
serious just summer flu or something — about half 
a dozen of us are dovm with it. Please don't 
worry one bit. 



202 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 



Wednesday. 

Temperature dropped to ioo-2 so you see I am 
doing well. Forgive short letter, not easy to 
write l3'ing on a stretcher. 

June nth, 1915. 

I am " up " to-day. Still feeling pretty groggy 
but temperature falling steadily (99 this morning). 
The head and back aches are both much more 
endurable. Lieut. Dixon is for sending me back 
to a "Convalescent Company" for a bit but 
I'm dead against the idea, I'm so afraid of 
getting cut off from the 6th and going drifting 
about France attached to some amiable party of 
laundresses or bath attendants. 

To his Mother. 

June 14th, 1915. 

Dearest Mater 

I am out of hospital at last : " discharged " 
in the official parlance. And now to sort out 
the last ten days and report what's been happening. 

We, (Maj-hew, Galton and Self) were recalled 
from our caretaking job on Saturday. We 
arrived at headquarters and new hospital in time 
to take part in a perfect orgy of packing during 
which a headache and general feeling of let-me-lie- 
down-some where that I had been enjoying for 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 203 

some days, nearly knocked me out. However, 
I stuck it and carried on until Monday when I 
went with the advance party which accompanied 
the waggons on the move. It was only a five 
mile march here but it quite knocked me out. 
After an ineffectual attempt to lend a hand with 
the unpacking I " went sick " and, showing a 
sudden temperature of loi, was put into one of 
the newly improvised wards. That was the 
beginning of m}^ travels. We gave up that 
building the next morning and I was juggled into 
an ambulance and brought here (about three 
minutes run distant). Once here I was carried 
up stairs and brought do^\'n again and moved into 
that room and brought back again. Altogether 
I have experienced six moves in a five days' 
illness. 

This is a middle sized mining to\\Ti. Rather 
prosperous — but nearer to the front line than we 
have yet had a main dressing station. A. and C. 
sections are working it together while B. is 
working another station further south as far as I 
can gather, but I am not sure. 

A lot of the boys are down with " flu " (we call 
it " flu "). In more ways it is like a mild heat 
stroke. The sudden spell of hot weather was 
very trying, and we get no regular exercise) and 
several of them have been evacuated. They 



204 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

wanted to evacuate me, but I was not favourable 
to the idea. 
Bye Bye. 

To his Son. 

June 14th, 1915. 

Vallie, my blessed, thank you ever so much for 
your nice letter. I was very glad to get the CO. 
Bird mth the kiss on his beak and I am taking 
the greatest possible care of him but I warn you 
I find him very difficult, and if I do come back 
without him, please understand that he will be 
quite as much to blame as I shall. 

To begin with he arrived just as I was packed up 

to leave " " and come here and I had to 

squeeze him into my haversack on top of Nanty 
Lai's tobacco and the asparagus. I buttoned him 
in but he popped his head out of the corner of the 
haversack and watched everything that was going 
on till some one said he was the Eye Witness — and 
then on the March I lost him ! I was awfully 
upset — but he turned up a couple of miles further 
on sitting on one of the waggons. I had been on 
the waggon tying on some loose boxes and the 
faithful creature must have seen me there, and 
when he got loose found his way to the place where 
he had last seen me. 

He lived under my tunic and trousers — ^that is 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 205 

to say under my pillow while I was ill and he must 
have had a very dull time because I was no sort 
of company : — couldn't smoke or eat or talk or 
do anything friendl}'. Now he looks after my 
pack when I'm out on duty and has breakfast amd 
supper with me. 

We have all had big parcels from the Red Cross 
Society with a shirt, a pair of socks, and brush and 
comb, sponge, razor and chocolate. The chocolate 
is from Queen Alexandra. I dunno who sent the 
rest exactly. 

Oh Vallie — I do hope you will still like being 
sung to sleep when I come back and not be too 
big a boy to be carried sometimes. You were 
such a dear when I went away, just right — try to 
keep as nice till I come back and pra}'' that it 
may be soon. 

Love to you dear from your Doody. 



To his Wife. 

June 15th, 1915. 

My Darling 

Another day and no letter — I am awfully 
distressed. I keep picturing all sorts of horrors, 
I never did trust Brighton as a place for a young 
grass widow. Do write and tell me Vallie is 
alright and you are still as usual etc. I don't 



2o6 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

like your going to seaside towns at all — and now 
not hearing from 3^ou for all these days. Oh for 
goodness sake write ! I am so miserable. You 
have lengthened the intervals between letters 
steadily two letters in seven days while I was at 
the caretaking job, two in nine now. It'll be 
two in ten if you don't write to-morrow. Do you 
think I shouldn't have joined ? 

I am returned to hospital — my rash is the only 
trouble now but it is persistent. I am to be 
isolated until it makes up it's mind what to be. 
/ know what it is. Too much meat not enough 
vegs, and no exercise, beside rough flannel shirts 
and perspiration. 

June i8th, 1915. 

We are jogging on here, forty or fifty, cases a 
day : perhaps a dozen wounded the rest the usual 
assorted. After the rushes we have so success- 
fully weathered, it is rather dull and monotonous. 
The men are getting fearfully impatient (as always 
during a lull) and talk of the summer slipping 
away, and the Hkelihood of another winter in 
the trenches, etc. The less intelligent majority 
persist in measuring our progress by the distance 
advanced, and cannot see that war and Geo- 
graphical aggrandisement are not quite the same 
thing. It is quite possible that we shall slog at a 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 207 

line for months, and then find one day that the 
war's over and the hard fight across Belgium and 
Germany " off." It's up to the enemy. They 
could impose that couple of hundred mile advance 
upon us if they chose or they can impose this 
system of holding us up at all costs upon them- 
selves. Were I the German General Staff I 
should fall back to a line Antwerp-Liege and 
Rhine right along to Bale, while j-et I could 
safely do so only holding Antwerp and that slice 
of conquered country but the}' seem to prefer to 
hold on, though I am convinced their present 
line is more difficult to hold and they may be so 
weakened on it that no other first class stand will 
ever be possible to them. In the same way this 
enormous offensive in Galicia may cost them the 
Carpathians before Christmas. It looks to me as 
if political considerations influenced the German 
General Staff far more than is good for it. Every 
General up to now who has allowed politics to 
impose upon strategy has gone under. Napoleon 
III is the classic example but there are many 
others. 

Isn't this Italian progress tremendously cheer- 
ing ? Of course they have not yet met a first 
class resistance but to advance through such 
country even unopposed would be a test of mobility 
in which to show up well would be a feather in 



2o8 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

any Country's cap and they have been by no 
means unopposed. 

When am I to have that photo of Vahie ? It's 
getting on for two weeks since it was mentioned. 
You haven't by any chance sent it off, have you ? 
You do not number your letters so I am often 
worried by fear that one has gone astray. I have 
only had two from you written since you went to 
Brighton ten days ago. 

Bye bye. Love to my brat. 



To his Mother. 



June 19th, 1915. 



Dearest, 

Apropos of the " long time away," a 
curious thing : I made the discovery yesterday 
that unless I can leave a nice well finished off war 
behind me I don't want to come home. This in 
spite of the fact that I am regularly and miserably 
homesick for at least half an hour every morning, 
and two hours every evening and heartily fed 
up with the war every waking hour in between. 
Never-the-less when yesterday to the rumour that 
certain parts of our division which have been 
rather badly knocked about were going home, 
was added the rumour that the rest of the Div. 
was going too, to continue as a Home Service 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 209 

Batt, I found myself absolutely horrified at the 
idea. To go home now and mess about at 
Hatfield and St. Albans ! Or to go home even to 
VaUie and his Mummy is not what I want yet. 
I want from the bottom of my heart to see it out. 
Of course the sooner " out " the better, and I'd 
give my teeth for a week's leave, but I don't 
want to be away from the work — even my in- 
significant share of it — ^permanently or for long. 

I am hurrying to catch post. 

Love and thanks again. 

To his Wife. 

June 20th, 1 915. 

My Darling 

We are still here ; in the mining town. It 
improves on acquaintance ; many decent caf6s 
and the usual small farms where omelettes, caf6 
au lait, pommes-frits and other luxuries can be 
obtained. I am living beyond my pay having 
developed a great distaste for army food since my 
spell of illness. I still have a little reserve 
though, and probably another spell at the A.D.S 
soon will give me a chance to economise. 

Mayer's dainties and the asparagus were most 
successful. By the way, never send me anything 
in the form of Bovril or Oxo. Our fellows are 
loaded up with it and we don't want it — we get 
too much meat as it is. Oh ! for vegetables 1 

o 



210 ^^'AR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

Say : you ma}^ be reached by idle rumours that 
the 2nd London Div. may or will come home 
sooner or later. Don't take any notice. These 
rumours get about without perceptible founda- 
tion and are only unsettling. It is most unlikely 
that we shall get further back than a base for a 
little rest and moreover it is more than likely 
that if the Div. moves back we — the 6th — will 
be attached to some other brigade and the 4th 
and 5th look after the Div. in its retirement. No 
other Territorial Field Amb. stands as high with 
the Powers as we do, and we are at full strength 
and in no great need of a rest yet. 

Bless you. 

June 22nd, 1915. 

Dearest, 

I am sorry I was a pig in my letter. It 
wasn't premeditated. Of course without actually 
experiencing it you cannot realise the misery of 
home sickness one can feel out here. It's want 
of you, want of Vallie, want of all my friends, 
want of my books and work, all rolled into one 
and aggravated by intense discomfort and constant 
annoyance and the haunting uncertainty as to 
when it will end. I think in November, but in 
bad moments I can find ample reason for thinking 
not perhaps till November twelve month or 
perhaps — for me — ^never. Grrrr ! 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 21 r 

Don't be alarmed — I am only excusing my 
grumpyness by telling you my worst humps which 
I assure you always afflict me on days when I 
have had no letter. 

Tobacco is ruinously expensive here. Franc 
an ounce for ordinary Nav}^ Cut ! If you will 
send me a quarter pound of either John Cotton 
medium or coarse cut Craven or some good mild 
to medium flake such as Dimhills stock once a 
fortnight I shall be most grateful. I expect I 
shall be having an economic time at the advanced 
dressing station again soon. I'm sure I hope so. 
It's much more fun up there. We have a new 
Adv. now, a gorgeous place in a chateau only 
partly ruined, with fruit ripening in the garden 
and even vegetables. At present I am living 
beyond my pay every day but reserves are not 
yet used up. Don't you think I have done pretty 
well since I have been out here ? Your Mother 
has sent me a quid. I have managed on that 
and my pay for — now — fourteen weeks and I still 
have something in hand. I shouldn't crow before 
I'm out of the — town — though : the constant 
temptation of omelettes de deux oeufs et " frits " 
(otherwise fried potatoes) and fancy pastries may 
ruin me yet. I always thought it should be "d 
deux oeufs " by the way. By the way I should 
like that clay pipe in its case when you go 



212 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

to the flat next, try to get it for me there's 
a dear. 

I am chock full of ideas for plays of all shapes 
and sizes, and the old habit of lying awake and 
getting quite excited over the working out of a plot 
is coming back to me. I haven't done it since 
we left Shaftesbury Avenue — ^not since " Elaine " 
was on the stocks. If only this war will end 
before I am quite abruti (is that how you spell it), 
I believe I shall come home to work. One thing 
I am getting thinner and I'm sure I work best 
thin. You mustn't overfeed me when I come 
home. I don't long to be over fed — but oh I do 
long for nice food and well served food — pillaff, 
rairogli, macaroni dishes, vol-au-vents, sweet- 
breads, your omelettes, strawberries, raspberries, 
gooseberry fool, ices, sole Dieppoise, salmon, 
turbot, kippers (Oh for a kipper !) soups. Also 
I'd love an oyster or two — or twenty. I've told 
you we can get excellent wine here at sixpence a 
litre haven't I ? Very light wine of course, but 
none the worse for that. We are no longer 
offered that confounded rum issue, and I'm glad 
of it. It always meant a noisy night. 

Have I warned you against rumours — Yes I 
believe I have. Beware of them, especially 
rumours of peace. We don't want peace till they're 
beaten, do we ? 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 213 

By the way — I wonder if your mother would 
like to send us a decent cricket bat, a good second 
hand one for pref, but a good one. We have two 
home made ones in the unit wherewith the 
patients and ourselves disport themselves from 
after tea till dark. I'm sure we'd be awfully 
grateful for one. Put it to her will you ? 

Bye bye. Heaps of love my Sweetheart — 
don't worry if I'm nasty. I do get such humps 
and I do so love every word you write. God bless 
you. 

To his Son. 

Vallie you villain what's this I hear about your 
visit to Brighton ? Swanking in the Hotel about 
having cut the Kaiser into little bits and put him 
down the dust shoot. Swank Sir, you never did 
nothink of the sort. He's still bossing Germany 
and giving us no end of trouble. You must have 
cut up somebody else by mistake. You really 
should look before you chop. 

Bye bye, my darling little man. I love you most 
muchly much. How do you like me ? 

Your 

DOODY. 

Please answer by dictation. I'd like a letter 
a week from you. 



214 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

To his Mother. 

June 25th, 1915. 

Dearest Mater 

No, please don't send me any money. 
Things are quite cheap here. In fact I have 
hmched out every day for the last fortnight, and 
had the usual evening coffee and biscuits also 
on very little more than my pay of one and five- 
pence a day, and I have a reserve of funds in my 
pay book. By the way I haven't tasted meat for 
nearly a fortnight. (I lunch on an omelette de 
trois ceufs and chip potatoes daily) and only 
twice in the last four weeks. This is not a fad. 
I simply don't like the look of it. If ever it 
appeals to me again I shall return to it — or if I 
go up to the adv. I shall have to I suppose. 

The rumour, I beg your pardon, official thing- 
ummj^ 3^ou report is, I hope, quite unfounded. 
Don't listen to peace talk yet, — discourage it if 
you can. Nothing makes us madder out here. 
Remember we are on the wrong side of the top 
to talk of peace. It's a worse idea than the war ! 
A patch-up with those bloody gentry over there. 
Do you realise that I can see one of them now ? 
a little speck in the heart of a " Taube " with a 
row of little puffs of soft cloud miraculously 
appearing with pin-prick like twinkles rather than 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 215 

flashes about hiiii ; the shrapnel fired by our 
anti-aircraft guns ; busy " keeping him off." I 
can hear them in the distance too, (or it may be 
some distant part of our line at work) and at any 
moment a couple of rough crosses may be carried 
past the gate I am sitting on, carried by children 
and followed by a temporary hearse, a burying 
party of long bayonets and loose trousers and the 
usual following of children. No peace until we 
are on top please. 

Love. 



To his Wife. 

June 23tb, 1915. 

Dearest 

I am so sorry. I see by your letter I have 
given you quite an exaggerated idea of my rash. 
I was never put into an isolation hospital at all. I 
was only put out to sleep in a tent until it had 
made up its mind whether it would be German 
measles or scabies or what. I carried on my 
duties just as usual (not during the high tempera- 
ture, influenza ^rs^ spell, of course — I mean during 
the second spell in " hospital ") except that I 
was excused 6 o'clock in the morning parade and 
had a daily bath in its place after which I rubbed 
myself with sulphur ointment. 



2i6 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

The rash has now neither developed any 
recognisable peculiarities nor altogether departed. 
Anyhow I have been discharged from " hospital." 
I think I must make up my mind to a continuation 
of it through the hot weather. Army shirts are 
very rough and army blankets rougher. Also we 
do not get enough regular exercise (either a spell 
of hard labour or a spell of confinement within 
a space of a hundred odd yards by ditto) I think 
the latter starts the rash and the former irritates 
and increases it. I'm not by several dozen the 
only man in the 6th who itches o'nights. Of 
course there are fleas, bugs and lice to do their 
share, but none of us are actually lousy though 
most have caught a few on their clothes or 
bodies. I for one have — ^nasty white bodied, slow 
crawling creatures — ugh ! I found mine on a 
body belt issued to me from store — I burnt it 
forthwith. My tummy was badly bitten though. 
Beasts ! 

Do you know I am coming to regard our 
habitance of Vic Square as the black months of 
my life — I mean since we were married. I never 
felt mentally alert there : no initiative. I believe 
if the w^ar had come along while we were there I 
should never have joined — Oh apropos — and 
in reply to your letter. I am very glad I did 
join. It's only the thought of poor dear you 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 217 

stuck in a poky little flat without enough money 
and that great tiring blessing on your hands 
makes me wonder if I did right. 

My letters are not so newsy as they were are 
they ? Old news over again is the order of the 
day. One " hospital " is very much Uke another 
(of course we don't run a hospital at all really. 
This like the places back in Bethune is just a 
main dressing station). We keep scaby cases a 
few days and any minor illnesses like my little 
go of flu — or whatever it was — also for a few days 
and a few only (they wanted to evacuate me) all 
wounded or cases hkely to last over a couple of 
days we evacuate per daily convoy to the clearing 
hospital, whence they go on to the stationary or 
general hospitals at the bases or even to England. 
We have no beds or nurses (latter not allowed into 
the shell zone at all). Personally I think our 
orderlies are just as good as nurses. They were 
splendid to me as far as lay in their power. I 
didn't want anything but water and sleep. They 
couldn't get me any water the first night. We had 
just arrived here you understand and had only a 
little in the ^^'ater bottles which was quickly used 
up. The water cart (I believe) went astray and 
local water is condemned until it has passed 
through the cart which is really an enormous 
tank and filter. They went to great trouble to 



2i8 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

boil water for me though and by morning it was 
cold and drinkable. 

Don't worry about the Russian reverse, dearest. 
It's costing Germany more than it has been worth 
to them yet and even if they regain Lemberg 
unless they also disorganise the Russian army 
they will be no better off than they were a month 
ago on the strategic view^ of the situation and 
rather worse on the economic. Of course if they 
can put the Russian army out of action — but 
it's a mighty big if — we shall have a bad time all 
round for some time to come — and I shan't get 
home this year but even then we shall beat them 
in the end and beat them to a frazzle. 

God bless you my dearest — keep your pecker 
up and make every one you can stop subscribing 
to charities and buy war loans. 

I love you very much more now than I used to 
and I v/asn't joking about grass widows — but I 
didn't mean anj/thing silty. 

June 27th, 1915. 
Dearest 

I am so sorry about the use of that word 
" isolation." Use has robbed it of all sinister 
meaning to us. We " isolate " anything sus- 
picious — ^scabies, pediculie (otherwise lice) any 
old thing. I suppose if I had said I was to be 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 219 

evacuated you wouldn't have thought much of it 
whereas it would have meant I was much worse. 
Things are still very monotonous. I got a 
run over to B. Section station the other night. 
The Jack Johnson's had found a neighbouring 
billet and a short but heavy rush was the result. 
Fearing it would prove worse than it did — (the 
J. J.s can't have known the damage they were 
doing as they dropped only a few shells and then 
rang off. Some said the French 75's " found " 
them — I never heard). The M.O. there sent a 
car over to us with a request for a couple of extra 
N.C.O.'s and Imms and myself were dispatched 
— ^not altogether to our joy. 1.30 a.m. is an 
unenthusiastic time to be routed out. Arriving 
at B. Section station we got the surprise of our 
lives. It's in a little, now rather battered, mining 
village and it looks a palace at first sight. One 
lofty well proportioned room ; at the far end a 
dark curtained stage ; with rows of beds — beds 
my dear ! — and the diffused lighting coming 
from hidden ledges and reflecting on the arched 
ceiling. It turns out that the mining village is 
a model mining \dllage and the " station " is the 
theatre built for the miners in happier times (in 
most excellent taste ; about the size and pro- 
portions of Prince's ground floor room otherwise 
reminiscent of the Little Theatre) and the beds 



220 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

are accounted for by the fact that the French are 
running one of their amazing hospitals — ^under 
fire there. We are sharing it with them. You 
can imagine our surprise, can't you ? expecting 
the usual outhouse or barn with straw on the 
floor and a couple of candles ; an M.O. and his 
orderlies stepping over one patient to reach the 
next ; a musty damp straw cum drying blood 
smell ; blankets instead of doors and windows ; a 
smoky wood fire outside on which a dixie of tea, 
or perhaps Oxo, stews — expecting this and 
finding a lofty, exquisitely lit, pleasant hospital 
palace. 

I am rapidly regaining old form. Sleep well 
again and good appetite. We have had some very 
welcome rain but the Sun puts in a good many 
hours a day and flies are increasing. We do 
everything possible to keep them down. It is a 
punishable offence to leave food about or throw 
it away except on to the incinerator, and we use 
heaps of lime and disinfectant fluid. The health 
of the troops is really marvellous — but the bad 
months are to come. I shall be glad to see August 
over. Wherever we advance the enemy leave us a 
filthy mess. I suppose we don't give them time 
to tidy up before clearing out. Moreover they 
always shell any trenches they evacuate so fiercely 
that we can't do much more than get the wounded 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 221 

out. There are several No Man's Lands about 
behind our lines but almost unapproachable. 

One at " " we call Smelly Farm will be a 

plague centre if it isn't cleared up soon. I believe 
we have done something in the burying and lime 
strewing line there since I personally smelt it last. 
You can bet on one thing : the authorities are 
awake and doing all they can, and — what is even 
more important — the men appreciate the im- 
portance of all the precautions possible. This is 
what counts. However fine the authorities and 
however energetic they cannot watch all the men 
all the time, I am disposed to hope that the 
Germans (who seem to be much less clean 
habitually in spite of all their discipline and 
experts) will suffer some in the hot weather. 

Don't hope to see me home on leave for some 
time yet, dearest. There are Divisions who have 
been out here for six months who should get 
ordinary leave before us. The only leave going, 
special leave, only granted on the plea of urgent 
private business. Sergeant Burrows has got 
three days : his mother has just died. The S.M. 
has the same on some business reason. So you 
see without a good business or domestic reason 
I cannot get leave. In the ordinary course of 
events I shan't get any for months, see ? 
Heaps of love. 



222 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

P.S. I have been the recipient of many com- 
plaints about the way the press is booming 's 

tardy joining of the A.S.C. Strangers in the 
BattaHons only knowing me by sight have 
sought me out to explain to me that it's " things 
like that " that give the stage a bad name. As 
long as he didn't join nobody worried about him 
(except a few silly white feather distributors) 
now he makes it look as if he were the only 
" pro " who ever joined the armj*. It's too bad. 
There are hosts of us out here (I met Millar 
Anderson — now a Sergeant in the London Irish 
the other day) and this one pup joining the 
A.S.C. half way through the war (I bet he never 
sees a shell burst and doesn't want to) discredits 
the whole trade. 



To his Mother. 

June 27th, 1915. 
Dearest Mater 

I'll tell you what you can send me : a list 
of the vols, m the Home University Library ; a 
list of the vols, in that series of one shilling or 
one shilling and sixpenny Handbooks published 
by the Oxford or Cambridge University Press ; a 
copy of Bohn's {reissue at one shilling of their 
library !) " Plotinus " published by Bell who have 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 223 

bought Bohn out ; a copy of Rev. Collin's 
" Plautus and Terence " published by Blackwood 
at one shilling (reissue), and any Joseph Conrad 
novel at one shilling except " Typhoon." That'll 
cost you three shillings in toto. 

Love. 



To his Wife. 

June 29th. 1915. 
We are jogging along under the impression that 
we are having a slack time but on going over our 
figures for the last month the " slack "ness proves 
to be only by comparison with our tremendously 
busy spells in May, when we handled our two 
hundred wounded cases a day in C. section alone. 
I myself helped with the " dressing " of over 
150 in 43 hours in our operating tent, and 400 in 
the week, after which I went up to the Adv. for 
three days. In those ten days I had my boots 
of^ four times, my trousers three, which may 
impress you till I mention that a whole platoon of 
the — ^th didn't get their boots off for eight days 
and slept in their full marching order six nights ! 
Some men of that Platoon had to mount guard 
after those eight days and march the next day 
five miles. The next day they marched up again 
and delivered the great ragtime charge of the 



224 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

" — th " which took three lines of trenches, and 
the description of which will still reduce any 
trained regular to a state of imbecility through 
laughing. I didn't see the charge, but I went over 
the ground and I heard the " story " from over 
forty participants while it was still very fresh 
and so were they. They are an amazing lot of 
cockneys — ex newsboys and such and — well I'll 
tell you about it one of these days. Part of the 
joke was that we didn't want three lines of 
trenches just there only one and the officials had 
a devil of a time getting the men to retire to the 
first line taken (the only one tenable), and when 
they got there they found it full of their supports 
who had come up and who in turn didn't. want to 
go back etc. etc. ad lib. There really is a lot of 
genuine humour in war. I sw^ear I've heard more 
real mirthful, im jarring laughter in the last six 
months than in the previous six j^ears. I am 
developing a theory that men who face death 
have a right to face it how they please, so long as 
their attitude is genuine, and the happy go lucky, 
laughing philosopher attitude of our men (between 
fits of "I want to go home " depression) is 
absolutely true and neither assumed nor callous. 
To laugh while laying out a dead is perfectly 
natural if anything funny happens and jars 
on no one present. To force a solemn face 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 225 

and funeral mien is fake and does jar on most 
susceptibilities. 
No more paper. 

Love. 



July 1st, 1915. 

Dearest. 

What a bat ! It has knocked all the 
ambulance speechless and I am suspected of being 
a county pla^-er in disguise. Who in the world 
chose it ? Of course the make is a good one, but 
it is such an exceptionally good specimen. May hew 
M'ho has played 2nd County Cricket says he has 
never lifted a better and our other one or two 
experts are equally impressed. 

I like the photo of " ours " but it has made me 
unhappy to see how my baby is changing. I 
shall have to make the acquaintance of a com- 
parative stranger I'm afraid, when I come march- 
ing home. — " Marching " looks quite an odd word. 
I haven't had a mile march — or walk — in the 
last fortnight. 

Things are still pretty monotonous. Still on 
" evacuations " to which I have now added the 
" grubbing " of our section. I dishes out their 
beastly dinners — ^which is not good for my already 
feeble appetite, and draw their daily bread and 
jam and cheese from the Q.M. Stores. 

p 



226 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

We have had just a gUmmer of excitement 
to-day : a score or so shells on a slag-heap a few 
hundred yards a\va3^ Very few of them exploded, 
whereat a great reawakening of the — " German 
ammunition running out " story is now in 
process. 

It's very difficult to write — continual interrup — 

Love to you all. 

To his MotJier-in-Law. 

July 3rd, 1915. 

Thank you ever so much for the bat. I don't 
know how you managed to get hold of such a 
magnificent one. Of course you went to a good 
place and paid a good price but some people 
could do all that and still get an indifferent quality 
wood. This has aroused such enthusiasm here 
that you'd think I exaggerated if I told you — but 
I don't. Mayhew who is a judge says it is the 
best he has ever played with. 

There is a joke about it which must wait 
till I see you as it involves official secrets — ■ 
of a sort, and might touch the censor hereof 
nearly. 

We are having a very monotonous time : each 
day like the last or the next. The variation in 
number of sick or wounded per diem is very slight 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 227 

and always well within our capacity. We had a 
tiny rush the other day, which however did not 
last. An occasional dental parade will occupy an 
afternoon but as a rule our day's work begins at 
6 a.m. and ends before 2 p.m. In the afternoon 
we leave just enough to keep the place going and 
adjourn to a field a couple of hundred yards away 
for cricket among ourselves or football with the 
Indians (who won't attempt cricket). Occasion- 
ally a convoy interrupts our game about 4.30 
and again after tea we are kept mildly busy till — 
perhaps — 9 p.m. It's a dull monotonous life. 
We are all longing to get up to the advanced 
station again. We are nearly three and a half 
miles behind the firing line here, and have only 
drawn lire — to any extent — once since we've 
been here — a month now. We are losing a few 
men (losing only meaning that the}^ are no longer 
with us) with eye trouble and other minor troubles 
due I think mainly to nerve strains. The Staff 
Sergeant of B. section came back from the 
advanced station a walking skeleton. I hadn't 
seen him for a fortnight and he quite horrified me. 
I never saw a man lose flesh so. Curious the 
difference in temperaments, the sergeant in charge 
of the Adv. I spent Easter at had been there — in 
the most exposed " Adv " I ever saw — for over 
three months and he looked as healthy as any 



228 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

man I ever saw. Men who can't stand the strain 
either get jobs in the divisional laundries, bakeries, 
etc. or get further back still to Boulogne or other 
bases where they are employed somehow. Some- 
times they turn out very useful there. It is not 
considered the slightest disgrace to be sent back 
with this or that ailment, unfitting one for the 
hard life up here, but still leaving one quite 
capable of useful work on the lines of communica- 
tion. 

This is not to prepare you for any departure 
from the front on my part. I am quite fit again 
and haven't got any nerves to get upset. 

I hope you are giving up all subscribing to 
charities and buying War Loan instead. I'm 
sick of these charities. Most of them are all 
wrong : their beastly tobacco funds that send us 
out absolutely unsmokable tobacco and the 
society that presents us with hair brushes ! 
(Consider : what are we to do with hair brushes 
and how are we to carry them ?) and weird shaped 
shirts, and tubes of pain-killer. They are all 
wrong. They aim — feebly at making war endur- 
able. The War Loan is to end it. Subscribe to 
that and nothing else. It's the only thing that'll 
be any use. 
Love. 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 229 
To his Dog. 

July 6th, 1915. 

My dear Emma 

Do 5^ou realise that I haven't written to 
you once in four months away ? Do you ? If 
you don't, I am hurt, if you do and don't mind 
realising it I am still more hurt. Taken either 
way you are a heartless little dog and you don't 
deser\'e a letter. 

There is only one hope for you. You may be 
too proud to enquire wdth suitable asperity, why 
I have not written. I leave it to you, ai'e j^ou 
proud ? 

If so what of ? Your ears ? — I beg your 
pardon ; I forgot Firstie. Of course you've a right 
to be proud after all, but I don't see your point. 
Wh}/ should your natural pride in Firstie be too 
great for you to complain of my remissness. You 
are illogical Emma, as well as heartless. I don't 
see what you're getting at. 

If you see that son of mine, you might give him 
my love and tell him to get his hair cut. If it 
hasn't been cut since the photo it must be too 
long by now — unless it grows backwards : in 
AX'hich case he must have a knot tied in each hair 
close to his blessed little scalp to prevent it growing 
in too far and coming out of his chin as whiskers. 



230 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

Will you see to this ? I don't want to come back 
and find my little boy sprouting a beard : he's 
too young for such things. 

Please give my love to Mrs. Chapin with this, 
letter enclo. It's a silly sort of letter — a great 
mistake I know — ^but — entre nous — (that's French) 
I'm a silly sort of person and subject to quite 
idiotic moods when I start thinking about all 
my darlings at home in England. 

Bless you all. 

To his Wife. 

My dear One. 

Your description of Vallie's greeting is 
lovely. I've read it twenty times. I love it — 
but it hurts me too. Don't think I grudge you 
one pearl's-worth of his love but — it throws my 
situation into a cruelly clear light. I've only seen 
him — he's only seen me that's the point — ten 
days in the last eight months of his short life. 
I shall come back in a few months' time to a — 
well almost a stranger, a sweet little stranger of 
course but he's bound to be shy with me — even 
though — as I know you are doing — you talk about 
me to him very often and do your best to — ^well — 
keep my memory green. He's been looking to 
you for everj^thing and only hearing about me as 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 231 

a fairy story — Oh don't think, please don't think 
I'm being jealous. I can be sorry for myself 
without being the least little bit grudging to you. 
I really am more glad than I can express, that you 
have got his love — and appreciate it — to make up 
— it's such simple plain sailing work being loved 
by a baby — to make up for the unkindness and 
exaction that I have mixed up with my love for 
you, until I've made rather a trjdng business of 
it for 3^ou, you poor dear. I wonder if I shall do 

any better after I'm afraid I shan't 3^ou know, 

I shall make a good start and — I've got a rotten 
disposition, that's what's the matter. I'm full 
of good : — ideals, courage, kindness etc. but I 
who am full of them am — ^well I've got a rotten 
disposition. And you know it — don't you ? 

The last need not be answered. I know you 
know it just as well as I know it myself. I hope 
you realize my good contents though and how 
distressing it is for me — unashamedly conscious 
of them — to be equally conscious what a poor 
show I make of them — what a rotten ensemble 
they and I make together. 

To go back over this letter and gather some 
lose ends. Do you understand that what I 
really mean is not that Vallie will seem strange 
to me, but that I shall be a stranger to him. He's 
been growing out of me for these last most 



232 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

impressionable months, just when he was acquiring 
a vocabulary and an enquiring mind for simpler 
metaphysics otherwise religion. Just the months 
I wanted to guide him through. Oh, my dear, be 
careful of his vocabulary and his rehgion. Don't 
let him use one word for more than one idea and 
don't let him think that to pray for a thing gives 
him a right to expect it from God by return of 
post. Teach him one simple thing — an obviously 
true one — that if God is Omnipotent, all seeing, 
all knowing, and good, all prayer should be con- 
cluded wdth " Thy will be done." Omission of 
this may end in a very rebellious frame of mind 
after some devout — and ungranted — prayer. All 
prayers are not granted. Teach him that if 
anything. 

What a letter ! 

God bless you my Darling. 

July 7th, 1915. 

It is boilmg hot to-day. It has been getting 
steadily warmer for a couple of weeks but 
these last tw^o days have been much hotter and 
to-day is tropical. Imagine what we suffer in 
the same heavy khaki and flannel shirts we were 
wearing at Christmas, puttees and heavy boots. 
You know how ill I endure hot weather. I feel — 
well ; rabid. How I shall endure three months 
of hot weather (July Aug and Sept.) God knows. 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRA:\IATIST 233 

I hate it like poison : makes me feel so slack. 
It's got to be stuck though like many — presumably 
— worse things. 

By the way, did I ever thank you adequately 
for the spaghetti. I simply loved it : had it the 
night it arrived. I can't remember whether I 
expressed myself about it or not. I have a habit 
of composing letters to you in the night, when I 
cannot sleep, or when I am shaving or cleaning 
my boots or searching my shirt for " pediculi " or 
doing suchlike mind-free things. I think this to 
you or that to you — ^just as eight, seven, six, 3'ears 
ago I used to think conversations with you. 

The devil of it is I sometimes think a letter and 
remember it but not whether I ever ^vrote it or 
not, 

Compris ? 

Love. 

July loth, 1915. 

Dearest Mine 

I am so sorry not to be with you at such a 
time. I know how much of it will fall on j'ou and 
what a gloomy, long winded, affair the funeral 
is bound to be. I cannot find any feeling in 
m3'self about him ; ^^•e ha\"e all kno\\-n so long 
it was coming and I have seen so man}^ die out 
here that a death is not so looming a thing now as 



234 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

it used to be. You, though I do feel most awfully 
for. I can see you looking pinched and tired and 
pale and sticking the long useless service because 
it's got to be stuck, and the long ride there and 
the long ride back in the stuffy funeral carriage — 
I have a hope you may come back some other 
May — will all add their weight of depression — 
where depression is needless. What's the use of 
an orgy of heart-heaviness to anyone. 

Now about leave. I have asked and had 
audience of the CO. who was most kind, but 
there's no hurrying matters, understand that. 
My application to the CO. was backed by Lieut. 
Dixon and has now gone on to the Divisional 
Medical Bosses backed by the CO. but at present 
only one medical at a time can be spared from the 
division and (as this is not a death-bed-side 
matter) I must wait my turn for (probably) a 
month or six weeks at least, by which time (let's 
be hopeful) the Germans will perhaps have started 
their big attack or we shall have started ours 
or an epidemic will have broken out or something 
unforeseen will have occurred and all leave will 
be stopped. 

Bless you all and Emma. 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 235 
To his Son. 

July loth. 1915. 

My Blessed Man let. 

I rather like your photo in the sailor 
suit but I love the one with Mummy and 
Joan that the Special Constable took outside 
the flat. 

By the way old man ; do you wear a black silk 
handkerchief with j^our sailor suit ? Because 
you ought to, you know. Ever since Nelson was 
killed on his ship at Trafalgar, sailors have worn 
a black silk handkerchief under the sailor collar 
with the ends tied into a sailor knot in front in 
memory of him — and he's worth remembering. 
Get Mummy or Granny or someone to stand you a 
plain black hanky, big enough to go round, and 
fold it from comer to corner and wear it as I've 
told 3'ou. 

Have you heard that the Kaiser (who you did 
not tear up and put into the dust shoot for all 
3'our boasting) has said that he's going to end 
this war by October — that's in three months' time, 
less than a hundred days. Of course he means 
he's going to win it in that time. He's wrong, 
poor man, but it's nice to hear him talk that way, 
because, when people talk that way, they gene- 
rally do something silly, and when he does 



236 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

something sill}^ we'll catch him such a wallop 
that you'll hear it at home in England. 
Love from your 

DOODY. 

To his Mother. 

July I2th, 1915. 

Dearest Mater 

Thanks so much for the books. It's such 
a treat to get good reading again. We are 
swamped with old magazines of the inferior type 
but can get little else. 

I'm rather a lone coon these days. All mj^ 
more intimate pals are either at other stations, 
sick and down at the base, or gone to com- 
missions, and two are dead. I'm on excellent 
terms with the whole unit but — well, a little 
lonesome never-the-less. I miss Fisher (gone 
to a commission) more than most. We had 
subjects in common. 

Write often. 

Love, 

To his Wi/Ci 

July 14th, 1915. 

My Dear One 

It looks as if my leave would either be 
refused or be a long time coming. Please, please 
don't be too disappointed. I hate to think of you 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 237 

being distressed. I have had a very plain hint 
and circumstances suggest that all leave may be 
stopped for our unit — ^nothing serious, don't 
worry. Oh and please don't don't be too dis- 
appointed. I'm sick enough without thinking 
about you feeling miserable over on your side. 
After all you have got Vallie to cheer you up. 

Anjnvay the old war can't last for ever — or 
even for long at this rate. The news is good isn't 
it ? Africa, Russia, France and the Dardanelles, 
all moves towards an end. I stick to the 
November to Xmas idea. 



To his Son. 



July 14th, 1915. 



Vallie my Poppet 

What time do you have breakfast in the 
morning ? Please tell me. I have mine at 
about ten minutes past eight. At eight o'clock 
I start dishing out the tea (with one hand) and 
the bacon (with the other) to my section. This 
takes me about ten minutes — there are about 
thirty of them. (I mn quick, aren't I) ? Then 
at ten past eight I fry myself a piece of bread in the 
bacon fat and that's my breakfast. A big piece 
of fried bread and a mug of tea. Sometimes I 
have a little piece of bacon, but not often, because 
I don't like bacon the way we cook it here, and 



238 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

cold iiito the bargain, and of course after serving 
out all the rest my piece is cold. 

Do you ever have fried bread ? Try it. It's 
awfully nice and very good for you, not too thin 
and only just crisp not hard. Try it and write me 
how you like it. 

Oh my boy I do want to see you again. 



To his Wife. 

July 19th, 1915. 

Flies are our present terror. Seriously ; it is 
impossible to sleep after day break without 
covering the face, they swarm so. We keep them 
down wonderfully in the hospital but everywhere 
else (Oh, my dear, the estaminets !) they darken 
the air. 

Yes, send me a couple of light shirts. Of course 
you cannot understand that under the conditions 
out here one wears whatever shirt comes along 
when one has the good fortune to get a bath. 
There is no private property. The shirt I wore 
last week may be worn by an engineer, a rifleman, 
or (possibly) Capell next. There is no poss. of 
getting one's things back. You simply hand in 
a shirt and a pair of sox and get a pair of sox and 
a shirt in return from store. Still send a couple. 
I may be able to keep them a few weeks and if 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 239 

only two it'll be worth it. When one stays in 
one place, one can accumulate a little but it all 
has to be abandoned at a move. You know we 
can only take what we can carry in our haver- 
sacks and rolled in our great coats. Those kit 
bags were given up when we left Hatfield. 

I don't wear underwear. It only gets dirty. 
The less one wears the better. 

Above was interrupted yesterday for a move. 
Cannot give details in green envelope. I'm afraid 
it won't go till to-morrow now, but will hurry it 
off. First moment I have had to spare since left 
off yesterday. 



To his Mother. 

July 19th, 1915. 

My dearest Mater, 

We are up among the guns again but some 
distance behind the trenches. We are sharing 
with the French local medical authorities. A 
hospital with beds ! A good proportion of the 
blesses are civilians and a very bad proportion 
of these are children. Two on a stretcher, my 
dear, that scarcely weigh enough to notice between 
them, miteb of five or six. 

This is where you curse the Germans, imless 
you have imagination enough to remember that 



240 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

we probably maim our share of little ones among 
those that are imfortunate enough to inhabit 
the danger zone behind the enemy trenches. 
If you are to have war with ten, twelve, twenty 
mile range guns and civies and their families 
will take their chance and live in the danger zone — 
3'ou can finish the syllogism for yourself. 
Write often. 

Love. 



To his Wife. 

July 2ist, 1915. 

" They " are shelling something — I dunno 
what — and hitting a slag-heap at a mine head a 
couple of hundred yards away. The shells pass 
nearly over this house and make the place hum. 
Nobody seems to mind (I'm sure / don't so long 
as they pass along) I presume " they " are after 
some batteries near here. They are a long way 
out if they are. 

It's awfully hot again and the flies are terrible. 

Love. 

July 22nd, 1915. 

Dearest 

I am quite incapable of doing justice to 
this morning's entertainment. " They " have 
been shelling the most thickly— and poorly— 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 241 

populated part of this little mining tovm. Some 
of us went up into it getting the wounded out. 
Houses, men, women, and children blown to 
pieces by huge high explosives — and more shells 
coming over every few minutes, all within a couple 
of hundred yards of the hospital. I want to 
tell j'Ou all I see — all that happens to me out 
here, but I must fail to convey it — and I don't 
want you quite to share my feelings. Amazing, 
ironic contrasts abounded : within five minutes 
of each other came in a self-possessed young 
woman of about ten to have the remains of her 
arm cut off — perfectly calm — ^walked in — ^never 
cried or showed the least excitement — and a man 
of fifty on a stretcher with a mangled leg who 
roared out in an enormous mad voice for his 
" Maman " over and over again till he was 
anaesthetised. Could any creation of the imagina- 
tion equal this ? Or this scene in a squalid 
kitchen ; — a huge woman dead on her face across 
the threshold, a little child also dead at her feet, the 
legs of her men folk (husband and son ?) straggling 
across the foot way outside (I am keeping back 
all the hundreds of horrible details, hard though 
it may be to believe it) and her remaining daughter 
a child of about twelve — leaping back and forth 
over the bodies struggling to get a chain from the 
neck of the body. " Souvenir ! " I tried to get 

Q 



243 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

her away — she was half mad — but was assailed 
fiercely by neighbours on her behalf, who seemed 
to regard her desire for a memento of her mother 
under the circumstances, most natural and com- 
mendable. While I was being suppressed 
another shell came over and we went to earth 
in a heap, the hundred yards away crash bringing 
down plaster and crockery on to our heads and 
the flying pieces of " case " buzzing past the 
windows like enormous bees or small aeroplanes. 
When they had settled the child returned to the 
chain — armed now with a carving knife — and I 
left her to it. 

Next Day. 

From the tragic to the ridiculous : a shell has 
just blown in the wall of our cook house (no one 
hurt) and blown out our dinner. Half rations in 
consequence. Half rations are all I can eat so 
don't pity me. 

Love. 

July 25th, 1915. 

My Dearest 

Of course if 3'ou've gone so far as seeking 
a house in Devonshire, go by all means. I didn't 
understand from your letter that it was anything 
more than a suggestion which I didn't like 
because it would curtail my time with you if I 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 243 

got leave during the time you were there. The 
other reason wasn't a reason at all — just a vague 
feeling of regret for one more might-have-been 
lost to me. You can't understand of course. 
It's ridiculous of me to expect any sane person to 
— ^pitiful, idiotic, feelings of lost, lost, lost — not 
at all constant but recurring. There are plenty 
of places left for us to go to for our honeymoon. 
We had talked of Devonshire for the other, that's 
all, and I'm a sentimental fool. It suggested 
somehow to me a fresh start from an old dream 
for us. 

Oh, Slops ! I'm in love so forgive them. 

P.S. Later on reading your letter again. 

If Shaw wanted giggling he'd ask for it. If 
he says " worriedly etc. " he means it. Play on 
the lines and don't go outside them. The Man- 
chester Dramatists need this help from actors 
just as the Glasgow ones used to. They scarcely 
draw their characters at all. How many different 
girls could you see in the situation of — say — 
the " Younger Generation " ? Is there any 
reason in the lines why Fanny in " Hindle Wakes " 
shouldn't be a cheerful little fair girl or an ill 
tempered tall dark one — any sort of self-support- 
ing modem mill girl ? Shaw doesn't need building 
upon. The less you go outside him the better. 



244 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

Be adequate to his lines — that is what's wanted. 
Of course you must appreciate the lines. 

July 29th, 191 5. 

My Dearest 

You've got to open some sort of a home for 
me if I get leave. I can't tell you how I long to 
sit in a room again — a room with a door that will 
shut out people. Most of the " horrors of war " 
are entertainments just a shade — or a lot — too 
exciting or painful to appreciate till they are 
over ; but the absolute lack of privacy for hours, 
days, weeks, months, accumulating and piling 
one on another is a source of real miser}'', far 
exceeding the physical discomforts of sleeping under 
an overcoat on a waterproof sheet on a stone floor 
or going without an occasional meal or night's sleep. 

Comic : I was roused in the night (being on 
twenty-four hours' duty at the dressing station) — 
or rather at 2 a.m. just as I was getting off to 
sleep, after having fetched in a dozen odd minor 
blesses, by a tall gentle voiced orderly shaking 
me gently and saying : " Corporal — there's a 
man here's been and yawned and he can't get 
his mouth shut ! " 

It was quite true. The poor fellow had dis- 
located his jaw yawning. How blase ! Fancy a 
company of engineers (he was an engineer) 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 245 

roused out at 2 a.m to go up and do their really 
dangerous work in front of the trenches and one 
of them yawns so much that he dislocates his jaw ' 
I took him round to Major Dawson who came 
down calmly, wrestled gently but firmly with the 
unhappy man for about half a minute, restored 
his jaw to the normal and returned to bed. The 
man walked back to the station with me. Ses he 
with deep feeling, " Nobody will ever know what 
that minute was like." Exact words I assure 
you. 

Dearest your letter arrived just this seconds 
I am so sorry I told you about the shelling — but 
I hate to suppress anything when I write to you* 
Of course there's a little danger to every one out 
here but how very little to me or any one person ! 
No amount of activity can make me occupy more 
than about two and a half cubic yards of space. 
A really heavy bombardment doesn't hit every- 
where at once — or a thousandth part of every- 
where and we stand a very slight chance of getting 
anything like a heavy bombardment here. Why, 
hundreds of civilians are still living here ! Esta- 
minets are open, mines working. 

There is something rather curious in your being 
frightened over this last little entertainment, 
when you weren't over the really hot time we had 
at the end of May. It is that in the May caboosh 



246 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

I never felt the least tremor of fear and the other 
day I was for the first time quite panicky. I am 
inclined to think that the May calmness was a 
mixture of fatigue and lack of " reality " in the 

show. I came up from " " already tired out 

and plunged into the fag end of a long and hot 
engagement. The very number of dead and 
wounded and pieces, the vividness of the flashes, 
the volume of sound were too great to derive self- 
applicable knowledge from — only a general — and 
rather — no I'll be honest — very enjoyable sensa- 
tion of animation and alertness and excitement. It 
was so enormous and ear-splitting that the mystery 
behind life and death and light and darkness 
and noise seemed more realisable for expressing 
itself thus tremendously, and the medium of its 
expression took a more palpably secondary place 
to it as mere mediums and not ultimate realities. 
The dozen shells the other day were, au 
contraire, separate distinct, each one explained 
itself clearly to the lesser domestic side of the 
mind and foretold what the next one might do. 

Don't worry about me. I am well — sensible — 
in a safe employment (consider if I were in the 
infantry !) The chances in favour of my coming 
back a good deal fitter than I came out are 
enormous. 

Love. 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 247 

July 30th, 1915. 

Sweetheart 

Do you say anything to Vallie about the 
chance of my coming home for a couple of days 
only ? If I do get leave I don't want the blessed 
boy to think if he sees me that I am home for 
good. It's difficult, isn't it ? Of course you 
mustn't raise his hopes of seemg me at all. Oo-er ! 
Very difficult. 

Things are very quiet here so don't be frightened 
about me — not that I was altogether sorry to get 
your upset letter. It's gratifying, you know, to 
feel that someone cares as much as that, though 
it sounds selfish to say so. Any\^•a\' you've no 
grounds for worry just now. The Mar seems to be 
" Off " for the time being as far as we here are 
concerned. 

Love to my brat and his Mummy — I quite 
believe he is a duck. 

July 31st, 1915. 

Sweetheart 

Yes, news in general is quite healthy isn't 
it — but remember no news can be bad as long as 
the Russian army is not disorganised and the 
Allies go on with their job. It may be made a 
slightly longer job by this or that German coup 
or a slightly shorter job by this or that German 



248 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

blunder but it will be done — " Naught can make 
us rue if the Allies to themselves do prove but 
true." Steadfastness in the authorities and 
fortitude in the peoples are all that are wanted — 
and they seem to be forthcoming. 

Will 3'Ou please call on Alfred Dunhill of Duke 
Street St. James (or get Lai to do it) and pay for 
the repair of a pipe I sent him to do a couple of 
days ago. Do this soon, there's a dear. 

I am glad to gather that I do right in giving 
you the worst as well as the best of my news. 
I suppose you will take it as good that we now 
expect to go back for a rest shortly. I'm blest 
if I do. " Rests " out here are beastly things 
with drills and kit inspections and revising 
equipments to make every day a misery. I can 
honestly say that the terrors of kit inspection beat 
those of any bombardment I have yet seen, and 
I would rather empty three hundred bed-pans than 
do half an hour's stretcher drill " by numbers." 
However these things must be endured. We've 
had a ripping time here, that's something. 

Some assorted sick just come in — • excuse 
me. — No I'd better close — getting near post 
time. 

Love. 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 249 

To his Son. 

Same Date. 

Vally. 

Hullo little boy, how are you ? I'm fine. 
We're fighting flies just now more than Germans ; 
there are millions and millions and millions of 
them. If you open a pot of jam they knock you 
down and take it away from you before you can 
say " Smiffins " and they wake you up in the 
morning by running up and down your nose — 
Oh they're horrid but we kill millions of them 
every day. We squirt stuff over them and bum 
their homes and hide our food (so they starve 
a bit) and catch them in traps. Oh my, they 
are a nuisance. They are great friends of the 
Germans these flies, and help them all they can. 
When the Germans shoot a shell at us and the 
pieces cut a man's face or hand the flies get on to 
the place and make it dirty so that it takes a 
long time to get better. Beasts ! 

Heaps of love my dear man. 

Your DooDY. 

To his Wife. 

Aug. 2nd, 1915. 

Sweetheart 

I am very worried about my leave — it 
looks more and more like falling through. We 



250 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

are still " here " and while we remain here I have 
no hope of leave. 

Don't worry about Warsaw or anything, just 
keep smiling — live as economically as you can — 
and make up your mind that after the War we 
shall be able to make up for the lean years with a 
vengeance — and a clear conscience. 

We are fearfully busy to-day — ^not with blesses 
— tent mucking etc. and above all fly slaying and I 
only had four hours' sleep last night so au revoir. 
Dearest, I'm going to turn in at eight and it is 
already half-past seven. I must wash and make 
down my " bed " — a waterproof sheet, overcoat, 
tunic, and waterproof cape, very comfy when you 
are tired as I am I assure you. I have had two 
nights in a bed lately and quite a number in 
blankets. 

Bless you both. 



To his Son. 

Aug. 4th, 1915. 

Darling little Boy 

I heard all about you and those carpets — 
I hope you helped them to find Gram a nice one. 

Are you getting very tired of waiting for me to 
come home ? I suppose you are used to me being 
away by this time though, aren't you ? You 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 251 

will have to get used to me when I come back 
more likely. 

When I come back for good — which won't be 
for a long time yet — I'm going to start your 
ed-u-ca-tion young man ! Ed-u-ca-tion ! I hope 
you know what it means because I don't and 
if I start your education and we neither of us know 
what it means we shan't get on very well, shall 
we ? We should have to make a start by finding 
out. You might ask Gram and Mummy and 
Auntie Lai what Ed-u-ca-tion means and let 
me know each of their answers if you've time. In 
the meantime be a good little boy and keep your 
eyes open and always put your feet down flat, 
chew your food well and breathe through 3^our 
nose. 

Bye Bye — I may perhaps come home for a few 
days before the end of the war. Won't it be nice 
if I do ? — but I'm not sure and it will be only 
for a very few days just to see you and be off 
again. 

Your DooDY. 



To his Wife. 

Calypso dear — I wonder if Vally asks as many 
questions as ever ? If he does be a dear and try 
hard not to choke him off. Children must ask 



252 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

questions — of course it's trying when one is tired 
or thinking of other things to explain why cats 
have tails etc. but do your best. Don't just say 
" I don't know " and leave it at that. Say " I 
don't know — we'd better ask — so and so " — 
In short keep his mind enquiring even the most 
foolish things rather than taking anything for 
granted. 

Later. 

I am now back at the main dressing station 
so you needn't worry about me so much for a bit. 
They have shelled us as far as this it is true, but 
such shelling is not a daily or even a weekly 
occurrence. 

We came back rather suddenly : at twenty- 
five to eleven came a cyclist round to the billet 
when I was having a wash : " Parade full 
marching order eleven " — I just got my coat 
roUed and my haversack and water bottle on and 
bolted to the parade and off we marched here. 

Tuesday. 

And now we're right back under canvas full 
fifteen miles behind the line enjoying — or about 
to enjoy — ^perhaps — a month's rest. I am in 
charge of one of the bell tents (temporarily named 
" Hope Cottage ") and fourteen inmates thereof 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 253 

— rather a crowd. Our tents are pitched in a 
tiny field, bounded on two sides by ditches and 
on the third by an eight foot stream and dotted 
with enormously tall poplars — a few more and it 
would be a wood. There are some willows by the 

water many chickens here and 

I must knock off to catch post. 



Wednesday. 

It poured all night but our tent kept the actual 
rain out, though of course a certain dampness 
prevailed. We shall dig drainage to-day and then 
it won't rain any more. 

The Sergeant Major has told me that unless 
something happens my leave request will go up 
to the A.D.M.S. again next week so there is hope 
of my getting it during that (next) week. Please 
let me know at once if you fix a date out of London 
next week. It would be awful if you did and I 
had to be in London half the time, wouldn't it ? 

We seem to be in for a fairly rational sort of 
rest after all. Some of the boys deny the possi- 
bility of such a thing and things certainly began 
badly but I am of a hopeful disposition and — well, 
the weather is better for one thing and the Sergeant 
Major instead of putting the " police " under 
arrest for allowing a woman into the camp selling 
fried potatoes, informed her, through me, that 



254 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

she could come every day at breakfast and dinner 
times ! 

Later. 

We have just had our third parade to-day and 
have been dismissed but told not to go away — 
" be ready to fall in again." Oh for a nice shell 
swept billet where the wicked cease from troubling 
and the weary are at rest ! 

Love. 

To his Son. 

CockyoUy Bird to his little Master. 

Oh Cookery Coo I am having a time ! He 
stuffs me into haversacks and drags me out again 
and leaves me head do\vnwards all night. The 
Germans have blown the mess tin I used to live in 
when he wasn't using it into a norful shape, so 
he's left it behind where the bangs are and, my, 
what a journey I've had ! 

Back there he used to sit me on his kit every 
morning when he went on duty to look after it 
for him, and he used to open that case with a 
picture of you in it so's I could have you for 
company. But one day he foimd me crying over 
the photo — I got homesick you see — so he took 
me out with him the next day to the hospital and 
showed me to two little French boys that were 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 255 

there— Oh horrid Httle boys I assure you Vallie ! 
They wanted to keep me as a souvenir ! They 
ask for everything they see and get quite rude and 
say " EngUsh no bon " if they don't get it. They 
were begging for " souvenir cigarettes " all the 
way here but they don't get any from our division 
now, nasty little cadgers ! 

I've got a fearful lot to do — this is a rest camp, 
you see — so good-bye. I may come home to see 
you in a week or two just for a few days — if he 
comes he's promised to bring me. 
Well 

doodledoo 

Your old pet 
Cocky Olly Bird. 

[Note. — Harold Chapin was home on leave from 
August 8th to August 15.] 



To his Wife. 

Aug. 23rd, 1915; 

Sweetheart 

I'm back here — found the 6th still in the 
same quarters — and I'm thoroughly unsettled. I'm 
homesick and Vallysick and Yousick. It's like 
the first fortnight back at Boarding School or the 
first week with a strange company. Why the 



256 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

devil have I had so much of this mild, lonely, 
unhappiness in my life ? I seem to be always 
being lumped off on my own away from the people 
and places I care about. 

I found your letter written week before last 
on my arrival here — it cheered me up after a 
gloomy journey with almost comically woebegone 
companions. They sang the most beautiful 
songs in the train all about how much better it 
would be to " stay at home " 

" About the streets to roam 
and live on the earnings of a lady typist " 

instead of going to War and having various 
specified parts of one's corporal being removed by 
the agency of high explosives. 

Later. 
This letter started the day before yesterday 
was interrupted to do some quite useless incine- 
rator building which kept me busy all yesterday 
and this morning. This is still a " rest camp." 
It is characteristic of military life that the three 
months of full duty which we have just come 
through and which even in orders has been 
referred to as a hard time, was really a period of 
w^ell blended work, and rest tempered by common 
sense and the sense of usefulness, whereas the 
period of " rest " which follows — and which was 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 257 

held out to us as a sort of reward for accomplish- 
ment — is really a pleasant little hell upon earth 
with no organised labour to speak of, but in- 
numerable useless fatigues, the whole rendered 
doubly maddening by a lack of nous and exuber- 
ance, of illnature hard to credit in the same people 
who carried on the full duty period. It's all 
very illuminating — if only one could get the light 
of it out of one's eyes. 

We are still infernally uncomfortable. Thirteen 
in a tent on wet ground (it rains every day still. 
Boots etc. unless well wrapped up are always wet 
by morning — inside and out. 

H.P.D. talked a lot about getting me a Com- 
mission, but he only mentioned A.S.C. as im- 
mediate. I wish you'd ask him about the 
possibiUty of Artillery. I'm not sure but I think 
that would tempt me. It's fascinating work : 
either field or garrison guns. 
Love. 

Aug. 26th, 1915. 

Dearest 

I have just received your letter in which you 
say you are beginning to feel " jumpy," really 
you mustn't write like that when I fail to write : 
I do my very level best and when I cannot get a 
letter off to you it worries me quite enough as it is. 

R 



258 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

The other day (for instance) I was going to write 
to you first chance. I started a letter before 
breakfast even. After breakfast I was packed off 
on a job (a mere lark reall}- — trip with the tug-of- 
war team) which spun itself out till six p.m. 
and the post when we got back had gone. That 
sort of thing is always happening. Please make 
up your mind (i) that I \\Tite every day I get the 
chance (ii) that j'ou'd know very quickly if 
anything amiss happened to me. 

Things are very peaceful here. We have taken 
to road sweeping as a new hobby. The inhabitants 
do absolutely nothing to keep the village clean. 

Next Day. 

And now we are on to a new job — cleaning 
harness and generally " squaring up " the trans- 
port lines. We have styled ourselves " drivers' 
batmen " which is a very sarcastic description 
if you could but understand it — perhaps you do. 
Batman is an Indian term, isn't it? We are 
rather hot at inventing new names or ranks for 
ourselves. How about " Clerk to the Incinerator " 
" Chief -latrine- Artificer " ? " First Lord of the 
Scaby Tent " (otherwise " Scaby-King " — which 
is the ordinary designation of the man in charge 
of " scaby-cases " and not a joke at all). 

As a matter of fact helping the transport is 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 259 

rather a lark — hard work but still a lark. There 
are many who grumble and talk the usual nonsense 
about not having joined to do this that or the 
other thing but judged independently of their 
effect upon one's personal dignity (imaginary 
effect), most of the jobs one gets out here can be 
done in about half the time allotted to do them 
in and can be done smoking and talking and are 
consequently anj^thing but irksome. Give me 
jobs any day rather than parades and inspections 
and guards. 

Let me have an answer to my query about 
Artillery as soon as you can manage it. 

Sergeant Tully (my best friend among the 
sergeants with whom I used to go for an evening 
stroll three or four times a week) has gone back 
{hack doesn't necessarily mean to England) with 
kidney trouble : he's had it before, I fancy the 
damp here did him no good. I shall miss him, 
he was a good old chap and a gentleman although 
his calling was that of a railway signalman in 
private life. I never heard him express an 
ungenerous or indelicate thought. 

We still sleep twelve in a tent and much of our 
time is spent in " cooting " our shirts and under- 
wear. 

We are beginning to give up all hope of ever 
hearing a gun fired again. All we ever see here 



26o WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

are the aeroplanes setting off and returning — we 
are quite a dozen miles from the front line. The 
good news from Riga bucked us all up enormously 
— though unfortunately it reached us in very 
exaggerated form : — ten battleships and four 
transports and we were rather let down when the 
next morning brought it down to one Battleship 
and nine minor craft with four barges or barques." 
Still at its lowest it was ver}' good news and out 
of a grey sky. 

To-day's news of the attack on Zeebrugge is 
heartening too, though — of course — not important 
in itself. I still see no reason to despair of getting 
back this winter. Big wars end swiftly and 
unexpectedly and the Balkans look like coming in 
against Turkey at last which will quite certainly 
end that drain upon our resources. 

Love and bless you. 



To his Son. 

Same Date. 

My Blessed Boy 

How are you and how do you like Devon- 
shire ? I hear you've got a bathing suit. How 
useful ! Do you ever bathe in it ? 

There are two brown calves who walk about 
our camp who are very anxious to be remembered 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 261 

to Cocky oily Bird — they were great friends of his, 
and several of the chickens who hang about 
for crumbs while we're having breakfast send 
their kind regards to him — they are all rather 
jealous of him though. He used to tell them the 
most awful whackers about his flat in London and 
his houseboat on the river and this and that 
and the other thing. They didn't know how much 
to believe, but — as one old hen said in my hearing : 
" even if it's all pretence he must have seen a 
flat in London to pretend so well — and that's more 
than we've ever done." He's impressed them 
fearfully. 

Love to you my darling — ^be very good to your 
nice mummy. She's a jolly sight too good for 3^011 
and that's my advice to you. Try to be good 
enough to deserve such a good mummy, 
and obhge 

Your obedient 

DOODY. 



To his Wife . 

Aug. 27th, 1915. 

Sweetheart 

I am extremely well. Things in the 6th 
are improving. Milk in the tea now regular, 
plenty of vegetables in the stew which is now 



262 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

quite palatable — though monotonous. Also we 
have found and developed several shops here 
which cook us quite decent meals. Pork chops and 
omelettes with well cooked potatoes and also 
chips and coffee may be bought at the camp gate 
in the mornings — and also hot rolls. 

Rumour hath it that we are to do " Divisional 
Sick " for a spell, which will keep us out of the 
line the 4th and 5th taking their turn there. If 
the war is going to run into the bad weather, I 
hope we stick to the divisional sick which means 
a permanent abode — probably in a sizable townlet. 
The other possible jobs for a Field Ambulance 
in this sort of permanent trench M-arfare are 
divisional washing and baths and convalescent 
company. They are not deemed such honourable 
occupations as dressing stations but we have won 
our spurs already and would like to rest on our 
laurels until " the advance " comes along. I 
have just had a most excellent pair of boots issued 
to me — as they happen to be brown will you send 
me in the next parcel either a tin of kiwi (you 
know the red shade I like) or of a stuff called 
somebody's " Tonej' Red " also I should like 
some handkerchiefs — only one or two in each 
parcel, though — at intervals. 

Love Sweetheart. 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 263 
To his Mother. 

Aug. 30th, 1915. 

Most dearest Mater 

Your second letter just received. Con- 
sider : for this letter to catch to-morrow's out- 
going post from the division I must put it in our 
post bag before six p.m. to-night. Ere I write 
the next word — " Corporal Chapin " — I reply 
" Sir " and am given some job probably a light 
one — very likely more of a joy-ride than anything 
else (we are having an easy time still) but never- 
the-less one that prevents this letter being finished 
before six p.m. perhaps that joy-ride of a job lands 
me back in camp at about dusk — Six o'clock post 
bag gone to mess : to-day's post missed. This 
involves the fact that — as we are only allowed to 
post one letter a day — Calypso, to whom I should 
wTite to-morrow will have to be postponed another 
day. Perhaps that day we shall be moving : no 
posting letters, even if opportunity to write them, 
for a couple of days. Where are we then ? 
Thursday, and a letter posted Thursday leaves 
us Friday crosses Saturday (if the Channel is 
clear) and probably reaches her in Devonshire 
on Monday. There's a very natural week's 
delay in writing, easily to be lengthened by — say — 
moving to an advanced dressing station the day 



264 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

after moving in general (a fairly common lot) ; the 
channel boats not running for a night or two or 
some other contretemps. 

You people in Blighty have no idea (I'm not 
surprised) what the mere moving, feeding, housing 
etc. of troops involves. Remember we do every- 
thing for ourselves. You are so used to having 
innumerable things done for you in civil life that 
you forget they are done : — ^the removal and 
destruction of refuse and the obtaining of water 
are examples. Another point : no civil con- 
tingency ever demands the sudden quartering of 
twenty to thirty thousand men in this or that 
localit}^ with absolutely no reference to its suita- 
bility or capacity for housing them, and at a 
day or two's notice. I am more and more im- 
pressed wdth the enormous capacity displaj'ed 
by those authorities who are responsible for the 
roads. You can't just say to the Umpty umpth 
Division " you will relieve the Ooty 00th Division 
on Tuesday." You have got to arrange for a 
dozen thousands of infantry with artiller}^ 
ambulances and A.S.C. to come up a certain set of 
roads while another dozen thousands come down 
another certain set ; — that they are not in 
" Sommevere " at the same time as it wouldn't 
hold 'em — and also that " Sommevere " is not 
left empty or even half empty — for the Germans 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 265 

to walk into ; that certain parts thereof are under 
observation (balloons generall}') and can only be 
evacuated at night and that certain roads thereto 
are under fire. 

Do you see what an enormous thing the new 
administration of war means apart from the 
fighting ? 

It's coming on to rain. I hope we are not in for 
a wet night. We are still under canvas. Thirteen 
to a tent, my little lot. Room enough for our 
heads but our feet feel the pinch. 




The theory is feet to the pole. The above 
(scale) diagram shows how we retire to rest about 



266 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

8.30 p.m. with beautiful fidelity to the theory. 
The next 




shows how we not infrequently find ourselves 
at about 2 a.m. when we are slowly aroused by a 
feeling of cold caused (i) by having left our water- 
proof sheets and rolled more or less on to the 
cold ground and (ii) by the exile having revenge- 
fully taken our top layer of tunics, greatcoats 
and capes out with him to make a bivvy (bivouac) 
with. 

It is raining I must go inside. 
Love. 



To his Wife, 



Dearest 



Sept. ist, 1915. 



Thanks very much for your latest just 
received. This letter may be broken off at any 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 267 

moment and I shall post it at once. We are 
waiting for the whistle to toot, fall in, and 
start packing our waggons for a move — quite 
an unimportant one as far as we know, not 
up to the line. I shan't be sorry to leave this 
part of France — it is decidedly damp — ^night 
mists and unlimited dew in addition to getting 
all the rain of the neighbourhood and I am rather 
rheumaticky again. Not acutely by any means. 
Just stiff joints and hard lumps in the muscles 
in the mornings. 

Don't encourage Vallie to talk about God, 
there's a dear. It really troubles me very much to 
think that he's having his little mind, even 
slightly, swayed by. . . . 

Later. 
I can't remember how I meant to finish above 
My meaning is : — tell him all the fairy tales or 
nonsense stories you please but about God and 
religious subjects only tell him what you yourself 
unfeignedly believe to be true : if nothing, tell 
him nothing. I want him — as I did — to find a 
definite religious or philosophical attitude (which 
means more, really, than a credo) towards what 
he sees — what he thinks he should do — what he 
fails to understand— /or himself. One cannot 
learn an attitude or acquire it from others it is at 



268 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

best a pose. One must make it for oneself, and 
by giving a child an idea that the cosmos is a 
sort of toy shop run by a tyrant (tyrants could 
be benevolent — don't misunderstand the term) 
with a curious hobby — the rewarding of certain 
acts and the punishment of others and the forgive- 
ness of certain of the latter acts as a reward for 
" repentance " coupled with a belief in the tyrant's 
existence — to teach a child this is to give it an 
altogether unreal cosmos to face and adapt his 
attitude to and build to. 

Fairy tales are quite different. They are con- 
fessed imaginings ; not told as authoritatives — 
at least by intelligent people. 

Ring off. 
Love. 

Sept. 4th, 1915. 

Dearest 

Yours just received (dated Monday). We 

left in the rain and marched here in rain and 

pitched our tents in the rain. Yesterday the 
rain let up a bit in the afternoon but it began 
again in the night and has rained all day (4 p.m. 
now). Tents flooded and sopping. I am on 
guard to-day. The guard tent is half an inch deep 
in mud inside and surrounded by a quagmire of 
yellow clay. We are encamped in a brick-field ! 
Love. 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 269 

Sept. 7th, 1915. 

Sweetheart 

The parcel has just arrived. Willet, Roffe, 
and I are now digesting the raspberries and 
cream ; thanks very much for them and the other 
things. 

It is a fine afternoon but threatening rain clouds 
are about. It rains about two thirds of the time 
here — and is very cold at night but we manage 
to keep pretty cheerful. We are encamped in 
a brickfield. Bricks, I may remind you are made 
of clay. The tents on the upper slope — as yet 
unexcavated — are fairly dry and the water 
drains off pretty well from around them but it 
drains down mto the dugout part, where the guard 
tent is and where the cooks cook, and having got 
there cannot soak away or run away : clay being 
non porous and there being no lower level for 
it to run to ; so it just sits on the ground and is wet 
and gets puddled into a yellow liquid of the con- 
sistency of house-paint, with which we are most of 
us splashed to the eyes and which is just too thick 
to drain into the gullies and soak-pits we dig for 
its convenience. 

We are fairly high up here and can see a goodish 
stretch of the surrounding country. The captive 
" Observation " balloon over " " (in whose 



270 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

unsafe shadow we made our first main dressing 
station in that town) is just visible live or six 
miles away to the northward. It's curious : ever 
since we came up from the base now nearly six 
months ago we have been within long eyeshot 
of that sunlit sausage. The country has varied 
enormously in our half dozen different abodes 
around it and the feeling of them has varied even 

more : — The crashing excitements of " " 

the desultory bullet dodging at " " (the only 

place where we've had any real experience of rifle 
" sniping ") the rustic peace of our last valley and 

which I shall always think of as a place 

wherein the civil population leave their arms and 
legs lying about the doorsteps with the flies buzzing 
over them. 

The sun is coming on wonderfully. It is quite 
hot. I shall fetch out my blanket and kit to air 
and dry. It's astonishing. Six weeks ago I was 
complaining of the heat and not without reason. 
Talk about the English climate ! This is infinitely 
worse and more variable — also more wetter. 

Loud cries — Willet very pale and excited 
grappling with an enormous " coot " (otherwise 
louse). He makes a point of looking supremely 
surprised whenever he catches one on himself 
as if he were immune. 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 271 

Sept. 8th, 191 5. 

Dearest 

We did a sudden move on Sunday just 
after I had closed my letter to you. 4.15 peace 
— ^myself asleep against side of tent undisturbed 
by rumour of an early departure for the following 
morning (we get so many rumours) 5.15 we were 
parading in full marching order 7.15 we were 
here unloading our waggons in double quick time 
in the glorious certainty of being let out into the 
town if we unpacked in time to get out before the 
estaminets closed. We succeeded and returned 
about 8.30 to sleep on the stone floors of a school 
room cheered by " a few." 

We have been in this town before. It was here 
that I was ill three months ago. We are about a 
mile from our old premises though. Struck rather 
lucky : a very adaptable school building — no 
stairs, stone floors, all rooms with doors at both 
ends and also opening into each other — make 
ripping wards. We have spent two busy days 
scrubbing, cleaning windows, crawling over glass 
roofs, digging, painting, whitewashing and 
generally making the place a show hospital. 
Scarcely any patients yet to disturb our efforts — 
or for our efforts to disturb. 

We are under canvas in the playing field 
adjoining the play ground. 



272 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

I do like to be at work again. Altogether I 
feel much cheerier. I hope to goodness I have 
no more " rest camp " for the period of the war. 
The weather is fine ; that too is a heartening 
factor. 

You'd love this part of our work, dearest, I can 
just picture you with a hundred odd men at your 
disposal attacking an unsanitary, dirty building 
and turning it into some hospital. Money no 
object and labour unlimited — ^nothing too much 
trouble to undertake and every job started within 
two minutes of its necessity being realized. 

Post off — must finish. 

Heaps of love to my dears. 

To his Mother. 

Sept. 13th, 1915. 

Dearest Mater 

Thanks for your letter. I am very glad 
to see that you reached Belfast alright. 

... I must make the effort to remember that 
she is the baby who used to be " lootin' forward 
to that " in a deep contralto voice : and who 
looked so sweet in her little Dutch caps and who 
was ill on the other side of a disinfected sheet on 
the top floor of the " click house." . . . 

Don't you dare to think this sloppy. With a 
baby of my own whom I haven't seen familiarly 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 273 

for nearly a year and with very fresh recollections 
of men who have died near me — their little 
collections of letters and photos — their weakening, 
wearying oft, talks about their home people, 
their chums out here, and how they got their 
wounds — their gentle deliria in which it all came 
out again this time more freely — sometimes in 
the first and second person instead of narratively 
in the first and third — sometimes even in a strange 
medley of narrative and dialogue, objective and 
subjective, sometimes sung to tuneless chants, 
sometimes to popular melodies. Remember that 
I know — not apprehensively nor vividly but just 
as a matter of fact — ^that I may be providing just 
such a pathetic entertainment for some other 
listener one of these days, and don't dare to call 
me sloppy in wanting to have you all at home on 
the firm basis of affection. 

Weather's gorgeous again. Nights chilly and 
early morning fresh, but the sunny parts of the 
day piping hot. 
Love. 

To his Wife. 

Sept. 13th, 1915. 

Dearest 

We are very busy here, making the place 
ship shape. I am corporal of guard to-day : 
opportunity to write letters, otherwise a beastly 

s 



274 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

bore and a tie. Corporal of guard does not stand 
on sentry post, you know, but has to be always 
within call of the sentries and goes hourly rounds. 
I feel rather weary to-day. I met in the town 
last night three howitzer battery friends whom 
I had not met since the great days in May. They 
had just been paid and / had just been paid and 
the result was twenty-five among the five of us 
plus cigars. I stuck to Malagar (do j^ou know the 
drink ? A second rate white port I should 
describe it as but served small) and came through 
well though my bed was not made as precisely as 
usual. I believe I could have slept on a bag of 
tent-pegs. Still I feel weary to-day. 

Later. 

Your letter just arrived. Thanks so very much 
for its length, but how dare you " must stop " 
when you want to go on and I want you to. It's 
beyond all understanding or belief how a letter 
bucks me up — and a long letter — Oh my dearest 
I'd like sixteen pages per diem. 

The weather is very decent again. Lucky for 
me to-night. We haven't got a tent for guards. 
Such sleep as I shall get will be in a bivouac made 
of three waterproof sheets tied to a fence — this I 
shall share with the changing pair of sentries 
'' off " duty. Rather cosy. Of course the guard 
must not undress or even remove boots 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 275 

Above interrupted by a horse breaking loose — 
easily caught again. The horses do an awful lot 
to keep us entertained : adventurous brutes, 
they have become — you should see the " horse 
lines " in a real mess. 

Just think of it ! — six months we've been in 
this beastly neighbourhood and in another month 
we shall be " in the winter " as we say in the army. 
Not that winter weather is to be turned on by 
the A.S.C. on the first of October but the autho- 
rities, wisely foreseeing that winter comes along 
then abouts, have chosen that month as the one 
in which Winter shall be considered to begin so 
we shall soon be getting an extra half hour in 
" bed " in the morning and one or two other 
Winter Campaign concessions. 

There's no blinking it — British troops do brmg 
prosperity w^herever they come in France. I 
suppose the average man spends his franc a day 
on eggs, butter, drinks and extra delicacies. 
What a contrast to the poor French fellows who 
never seem to have a pair of sous to rub together ! 
War's a rough enough business even on the British 
commissariat and pay but 

Next Day. 
Off Guard. I was burdened with a prisoner 
the latter half of my guard. Like most of the 



276 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

minor criminals of the army whose examination 
by the CO. or their company officer I have 
witnessed I disHked him more for his defence 
than his crime. Were I a CO. I should say : 
" Two da3^s pay stopped for the offence and 
twenty-eight days field punishment for the 
deience. 

Sept. 17th, 191 5. 

Dearest 

We had a jolly day up at the line yesterday 
when a part}^ of us went up to work at a new aid 
post in course of construction. We did an 
amazing amount of work slaving like navvies with 
pick and shovel at a communication trench linking 
the aid post with the works. I understand that 
the Engineer officer in charge of the job has 
compHmented the CO. on the working parties 
he sends up. Certainly we do work well when 
there's anything to do. It's the idiotic " made " 
work we don't put our hearts into. 

The weather is splendid. There was a little 
rain in the night before last (I happened to be on 
guard) but that was the only rain we have had 
since we came here Sunday before last. It's 
rather nice revisiting a town we have been in 
before : we know the shops and the estaminets 
and the people. Every night when nothing 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 277 

prevents it I go and have cafe au lait in the garden 
of the farm do\Mi near our old quarters. Madame 
there gives us " beaucoup du lait " in large bowls 
— about three-quarters of a pint I should think — 
piping hot and just nicely flavoured with a big 
dash of coffee. 

It is a month since I was home on leave — six 
months since we left England. How many more, 
I wonder. Fine, dr}^ weather, my dear, will make 
a difference. Armies the size of ours are fearfully 
weather bound. Many a man who " went west " 
in the May attacks would be alive now if his boots 
hadn't been so caked with mud. 

Love to you dear. I want to get the war over 
and get home to you and the Duck and Emma. 

To his Son. 

Sept. 1 8th, 1915. 

My Son-bird, how are you ? I'm quite well 
but a little stiff in the joints. We've been doing 
a lot of digging : making a trench to carry 
wounded people up and down, and we've walked 
miles and miles back from the place where we 
did the digging and we are tired. 

We are not very near the Germans here, but 
we can hear them banging away in the distance 
sometimes, and last night all the sky was lit up 
in their direction by a big fire — houses burning. 



278 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

Yesterday — too — while we were up digging near 
to them some Germans dimbed up a tower behind 
their Hues, and we had to bob down into the holes 
we w^ere digging to prevent them seeing us and 
then our cannons banged at them and they came 
down from the tower in a hurry. 

I do hope you are a good little boy. It's so 
much nicer to have a good little boy at home than 
to have a regular little pickle. Please write and 
tell me if 3'ou are a good little boy — I shall be so 
pleased to hear it. 

Love from your Doody. 

To his Wife. 

Sept. 24th, 1915. 

Sweetheart Mine 

This is my ideal of happiness : (under war 
conditions) to arrive back, after a hard day's 
navvying among the nice big bangs (I really do 
like the noise of guns — unhealthy taste, eh ?) to 
come back to camp and tea healthily tired, to 
come back by the first batch of cars thereby 
ensuring a wash unhurried and evading the wait 

by the roadside at " " and to find a letter 

from you waiting for me. I am sure you think 
my effusions over your letters mere civil romance 
but they are not. I cannot exaggerate the 
pleasure I feel when I wade into a letter from you. 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 279 

I am so very glad that you are to have the 
blessed with you again . I hate to think of you and 
him apart. It makes nie feel altogether too 
" scattered " (compris ?) to have a son here, a 
wife there, a mother somewhere else, a sister 
elsewhere. Keep him with you all you can and 
talk to hmi about me a lot. I do so want to come 
home to you both. 

We are launching forth in many directions : 
beds (for patients of course) and a young drug 
store under a roof of its own ; no longer housed 
with the Quarter Master's store. At present /and 
some score of others are going up to the line daily 
doing the most glorious navvying : knocking 
cellars into each other and whitewashing the 
whole into operating rooms and waiting rooms, 
and bearers' billets ; digging special R.A.M.C. 
stretcher trenches to connect them (A) with the 
general communicating trenches and (B) with 
each other and filling billions of sandbags to 
protect the entrances to these cellar-stations. I 
love the work, three days I slaved at a part of 
the trench where it traverses a mine-yard and 
came back a Frank Tinney at night. Yesterday 
I was housebreaking with hammer and chisel or 
pick connecting up cellars by holes knocked in 
walls and making bolting holes to get in and out 
through. Also we go investigating the rows and 



28o WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

rows of empty houses (the Hue where we work 
passes almost through a mmmg townlet now 
deserted) bagging chairs, mirrors— there are many 
quite good ones unbroken in the midst of the 
chaos of bent girders scattered walls, roofs, 
pavements even. 

Everybody seems very high spirited out here 
and grumbling is a thing of the past. I suspect 
that the weather is reason. Day after day is 
glorious — though night after night is cold. 

As the weather grows colder my appetite 
increases, cake most acceptable. 

Posting this the morning after writing it. Was 
called away to interview M. Le Directeur des 
Mines apropos d'une affaire forte dificile, je 
vous dis. 

Love to the dear— I wish I were going to see 
you both again soon. Wanted ! — 

[TJie above was the last letter ever received from 
Harold Chapin. The following unfinished letter 
was found in his pocket-book after his death. It 
was written some days before the preceding letter.] 

To his Mother. 

Dearest Mater 

I dunno if I did or did not write to you 
the day after that letter to Calypso. We've had 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 281 

a good few days lately when 6 o'clock parade 
(6 o'clock a.m. you understand) and dusk were 
linked up by a day's work and march so that no 
letters were written, and I dare swear the censor 
was correspondingly rejoiced. 

Our days spent trench digging (special com- 
munication trenches we dig, pour chercher les 
blessees not for wicked men with arms or what 
would the Geneva convention say ?), our da3^s 
spent trench digging are a great source of enjoy- 
ment — curious, because they involve a bolted 
breakfast — a seven o'clock start, an hour's jog 
in a hard, springless, G.S. waggon, a halting, 
single-file march of a couple of miles and a day of 
back breaking work at pick and shovel followed 
sometimes by march and G.S. waggon back, 
sometimes by a long march and no G.S. waggon. 
The secret of their charm is the feeling of doing 
something actual compared with the messing 
about cleaning waggons for inspection and ever- 
lastingly tidying up camp to get it dirty again. 
Those trenches may never be used but if ever it 
is necessary to bring in wounded from the fire 
trenches to the aid posts under anything of a 
bombardment they will mean endless lives saved. 
It's a pleasant thought. I haven't seen the Lloyd 
George speech 3'ou mention. — I didn't know he'd 
written anything lately. Do you know — coeval 



282 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 

with his rise in popularity I am getting a bit sick 
of him. He strikes me as being all enthusiasm 
and no judgment — ^no sense of fitness. On the 
tide and with the tide of universal approval is 
not the best place for a Welshman. I prefer the 
" brave man struggling with adversity " to this 
popular idol playing with his admirers, being rude 
to them just to show how well he can apologise 
etc., etc. 

Books — ^yes, I want a pocket Browning mit 
everything in it ! Is such a thing to be had, I 
wonder ? Of course I've got sizable pockets. 
Still it's a tall order. 

Anyway I want " Paracelsus " and " Men and 
Women " particularly. I am on guard and 
writing letters for the next two or three days 
(I may only send off one a day). Our supply of 
corporals is not quite adequate to the demands 
made upon it and this will be my fourth night 
on guard in a fortnight. — Rather fatiguing work, 
involving a night of cat naps fully dressed and 
booted and a final rise at a little after 4 a.m. to 
call the cooks and " duties," hoist the flag and 
remove the lamps and finally (at 5 a.m.) to call 
the camp in general. 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 283 

Later 

(Sunday in fact) 

Oh, my dear, I wish you could see your golden 
haired laddie sitting by the roadside waiting for a 
waggon, — time 5 p.m. 

I have been for two days digging through the 
slag heap of a mine ! A mine ! Our trench 
happens to go that way I am as black as a coal 
heaver. 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 285 



APPENDIX A. 
HAROLD CHAPIN'S PLAYS. 



" Augustus in Search of a Father " One Act. 

" The Marriage of Columbine " . . Four Acts. 

" Muddle Annie " One Act. 

" The Autocrat of the Coffee Stall " One Act 

" Innocent and Annabel " .. .. One Act. 

" The Dumb and the Blind " . . One Act. 

" The Threshold " One Act. 

" Elaine " . . . . . . . . Three Acts. 

" Art & Opportunity " . . . . Three Acts. 

" Wonderful Grandmama " . . . . Two parts. 

" The New MoraHty " . . . . Three Acts. 

" It's the Poor that 'Elps the Poor " One Act. 

" Every Man for His Own " . . One Act. 

" Dropping the Baby " . . . . One Act. 

" The Philosopher of Butterbiggins " One Act. 

" The Well Made Dress Coat." . . Four Acts. 



286 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 
APPENDIX B. 

QUEEN'S THEATRE 

Licensed by the Lord Chamberlain to Mr. ALFRED BUTT 
25, Marlborough Place, London) 

Kindly lent by Mr. FREDERICK WHELEN 



THE HAROLD CHAPIN 

Memorial Performance 

To Build a Y.M.C.A. Hut at the Front 
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 14th, at 6 o'clock. 

COMMITTEE : 

Chairman, Sir Herbert Tree. 

Henry Ainley. Sidney Dark. J. T. Grein. 

William Archer. P. Michael Faraday. Ernest Mayer. 
Frederick Whelen. • 



Hon. Manager, G. Dickson-Kenwin. 
Hon, Secretary, Miss Ruth Parrott. 



WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 287 

PROGRAMME 



Four One-Act Plays by HAROLD CHAPIN 



"It's the Poor that 'elps the Poor" 

Mrs. Harris . . BLANCHE STANLEY 

Mr. Harris . . . . STANLEY TURNBULL 

Mr. Charles King . . PERCIVAL CLARKE 

Mrs. Pipe . . . . AGNES THOMAS 

Emily Pipe.. .. KATHLEEN RUSSELL 

WiUy Pipe . . . . JACK RENSHAW 

Mr. Pickard . . BEN FIELD 

Mrs. Manley . . SYDNEY FAIRBROTHER 

Keity .. .. IDA CAMERON 

Alfred Wright .. BEN WEBSTER 

Walter Wright . . A. HARDING STEERMAN 

Mrs. Herberts .. CALYPSO VALETTA 

Ted . . ... . . GERALD du MAURIER 

Produced by W. G. FAY 

Stage Manager - W. T. LOVELL 



"The Dumb and the Blind'* 

Joe .. .. ^ ... HENRY AINLEY 

Liz « ELSIE DAWSON 

Bill NORMAN PAGE 

Emmy .. ... .. IRENE ROSS 

Produced by SIDNEY VALENTINE 
Stage Manager • J. STEWART DAWSON 



288 WAR LETTERS OF A DRAMATIST 
" The Philosopher of Butterbiggins " 

For the First Time on any Stage 

David CAMPBELL GULLAN 

Lizzie HILDA TREVELYAN 

John Bell . . . . ALLAN JEAYES 
Produced by H. K. AYLIFF 
Stage Manager - CHARLES RUSS 



Interval of Fifteen Minutes. 

"Innocent and Annabel" 

Achilla Innocent . . STANLEY LOGAN 
Mrs. Achille .. MARY JERROLD 

Annabel .. .. ALICE CHAPIN 

Servant .. .. MAY EDWARD SAKER 

Produced by EILLE NORWOOD 
Stage Manager - OSWALD MARSHALL 

All the Artistes appear by kind permission of their respective 
Managers. 

Hon. Manager .. G. Dickson-Kenwin 

(By permission of Mr. J. T. Grein) 
Hon. General Stage 

Manager . . J. Stewart Dawson 

(By permission of Messrs. Vedrenne & Eadie) 
Hon. Stage Manager 
(for Queen's 

Theatre) . . . . Charles Russ 

(By permission of Mr. Frederick Whelen) 
Hon. Musical Director Napoleon Lambelet 

[Note. — As a result of this performance, a " Harold 
Chapin " Y.M.C.A. Hut has been erected in France in the 
advanced British Lines.] 



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